Examining the role of threat processing in memory consolidation and prejudice formation

Stephanie Marie Reyes, University of Texas at El Paso


Memory is a flexible system that integrates new incoming information into existing memory representations (Stickgold & Walker, 2007). Through sleep and over time, memories become stable via consolidation processes (Payne, Stickgold, Swanberg & Kensinger, 2008). Prejudice formation can occur through the consolidation of stereotype schemas. In a previous study Latino participants learned positive and negative trait information about in-group and out-group members (Enge, Lupo & Zárate, 2015). At test, participants responded more quickly to out-group targets paired with negative traits than in-group pairings with these traits. Findings indicate that participants also responded more quickly to in-group targets paired with positive traits indicating a positivity bias towards one’s own group. The present study aims to replicate these findings and further examine this in-group response bias. The negativity bias was investigated to test if threat-based actions, both positive and negative, are better integrated over time. Threat response type behaviors, such as prosocial acts are promoted between in-groups as opposed to out-groups (Penner, et al., 2004). Furthermore, individuals tend to associate out-groups to various forms of threats (Cottrell & Neuberg, 2005). In the current study, participants learned both positive and negative information that was threat and non-threat related about in and out group members. Participants returned back twice for test sessions, 6 (+/− 2) hours and 48 hours post learning phase. Results indicate participants’ responses were consistent with group bias. Furthermore, consolidation effects were prominent for threat related content.

Subject Area

Social psychology|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Reyes, Stephanie Marie, "Examining the role of threat processing in memory consolidation and prejudice formation" (2016). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10118195.