The development of shared memories, beliefs, and norms is a fundamental characteristic of human communities. These emergent outcomes are thought to occur owing to a dynamic system of information sharing and memory updating, which fundamentally depends on communication. Here we report results on the formation of collective memories in laboratory-created communities. We manipulated conversational network structure in a series of real-time, computer-mediated interactions in fourteen 10-member communities. The results show that mnemonic convergence, measured as the degree of overlap among community members' memories, is influenced by both individual-level information-processing phenomena and by the conversational social network structure created during conversational recall. By studying laboratory-created social networks, we show how large-scale social phenomena (i.e., collective memory) can emerge out of microlevel local dynamics (i.e., mnemonic reinforcement and suppression effects). The social-interactionist approach proposed herein points to optimal strategies for spreading information in social networks and provides a framework for measuring and forging collective memories in communities of individuals.
mnemonic reinforcement effect | socially-shared retrieval-induced forgetting | social networks | collective memories | emergent phenomena