Abstract

People remember information that has been processed for survival relevance particularly well, perhaps because our memory systems have been tuned by natural selection to retain information pertinent to inclusive fitness. In the standard procedure, people rate the relevance of single words or objects to an imagined survival scenario and then receive a surprise retention test for the rated items. Here we replicate the survival advantage in a novel choice procedure in which people are asked to choose which of two items would be most useful in a survival context or in a “moving” (Experiment 1) or “scavenger hunt” (Experiment 2) control context. Chosen items were remembered better than unchosen items, and the survival processing advantage did not interact with the choice effect. Experiment 2 replicates this pattern using the matched-scenario design first used by Nairne, Pandeirada, Gregory, and VanArsdall (2009). These experiments extend the generality of the survival advantage and provide diagnostic information about its underlying proximate mechanisms.

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