A Cultural Psychological Analysis of Collective Memory as Mediated Action: Constructions of Indian History


  • Sahana Mukherjee
  • Glenn Adams
  • Ludwin E. Molina


The present research applies a cultural psychological perspective on collective memory as mediated action to examine how constructions of a national past serve as tools that both reflect and shape national identity concerns. We employ a situation-sampling method to investigate collective memory in a series of studies concerning intergroup relations in the Indian context. In Study 1, participants (N = 55) generated three historical events that they considered important/relevant for Indian history. In Study 2, participants (N = 95) rated the importance and relevance of these events in a within-participant design. Illuminating the psychological constitution of cultural reality, frequency of recall (Study 1) and ratings of importance/relevance (Study 2) were greater for nation-glorifying events celebrating ingroup triumph than for typically silenced, critical events acknowledging ingroup wrongdoing. Moreover, these patterns were stronger among participants who scored higher in national identification. In Studies 3 (N = 65) and 4 (N = 160), we exposed participants to different categories of events in a between-participants design. Illuminating the cultural constitution of psychological experience, participants exposed to typically silenced, critical events reported lower national identification and greater perception of injustice against marginalized groups than did participants exposed to nation-glorifying events. Together, results illuminate a conception of collective memory as mediated action. Producers invest memory products with an identity-interested charge that directs subsequent intergroup relations toward identity-consistent ends.