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Bad Times May Seem Worse If You Expect to Repeat Them

THURSDAY, Feb. 10 (HealthDay News) -- People are more likely to recall an unpleasant experience as being less painful or annoying if they believe it is over than if they expect it to occur again, say researchers.

On the other hand, they remember fun activities as equally enjoyable whether they think they'll do them again or not.

Bracing for the worst may help people reduce their discomfort if they have a bad experience and allow them to be pleasantly surprised if nothing bad happens, according to study co-authors Jeff Galak of Carnegie Mellon University and Tom Meyvis of New York University.

The findings appear in the February issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

In a series of experiments, volunteers were exposed to bothersome vacuum noise and made to do tedious computer tasks. The participants recalled these events as being significantly more irritating, boring or annoying if they were told the event would be repeated again soon.

The researchers also found that women who had recently finished menstruating or who were about to menstruate recalled their period as significantly more painful than women who were in the middle of their cycle.

This could be an adaptive reaction, said the researchers in a news release from the American Psychological Association. People may attempt to maintain their mental balance by using memory to toughen themselves against future challenges.

More information

Mental Health America explains how to cope with everyday problems.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, Feb. 7, 2011

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