Semin, G. R., & Smith, E. R. (1999). Revisiting the past and back to the future: Memory systems and the linguistic representation of social events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 877-892.
Five studies investigate the relationship between how people communicate about social events and how representations of these events are stored in memory. We hypothesize that more distant events in memory will be described with more abstract linguistic predicates, and recent events will be linked with more concrete language. The first study supports this hypothesis. The second and third experiments demonstrate that abstract terms (adjectives) used as prompts elicit memories that are significantly more removed in time than concrete words (verbs of action). Two final experiments show that these outcomes are not merely a function of the type of semantic cues, but an interaction between memory systems and preferential predicate use. The findings illustrate a link between basic properties of memory systems and communicative (social) behavior of a type that has not been previously studied. The results are discussed in terms of a recent, well-supported model of two separate fast-learning and slow-learning memory systems.