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MEMCONS: How Contemporaneous Note‐Taking Shapes Memory for Conversation


Written memoranda of conversations, or memcons, provide a near-contemporaneous record of what was said in conversation, and offer important insights into the activities of high-profile individuals. We assess the impact of writing a memcon on memory for conversation. Pairs of participants engaged in conversation and were asked to recall the contents of that conversation 1 week later. One participant in each pair memorialized the content of the interaction in a memcon shortly after the conversation. Participants who generated memcons recalled more details of the conversations than participants who did not, but the content of recall was equally and largely accurate for both participants. Remarkably, only 4.7% of the details of the conversation were recalled by both of the partners after a week delay. Contemporaneous note-taking appears to enhance memory for conversation by increasing the amount of information remembered but not the accuracy of that information. These findings have implications for evaluating the testimony of participants on conversations with major political or legal ramifications.

DOI: 10.1111/cogs.13271