Attitudes Shape Implicit Temporal Trajectories: A Quantitative Test of the Narrative Structure of Collective Memories of Colonialism


  • Simona Lastrego
  • Charlotte Janssens
  • Olivier Klein
  • Laurent Licata


This article investigates how Belgian participants’ implicit temporal trajectories regarding the history of Belgian colonialism in the Congo vary as a function of their attitudes towards colonialism and thus create different collective memories. We reasoned that, depending on their attitudes towards Belgian colonialism, individuals may draw on different schematic narrative templates to structure their own implicit temporal trajectory of colonial history. Consequently, we predicted that the shape of individual implicit temporal trajectories should vary according to their attitudes. Specifically, we expected that positive attitudes towards colonialism would be associated with implicit temporal trajectories in which the colonial period is seen as more positive than before and after colonialism, creating an inverted U-shaped implicit temporal trajectory, while negative attitudes towards colonialism should be associated with the opposite trend – U-shaped implicit trajectories. We measured the attitudes towards colonialism of Belgian participants (n = 129), then their social representations of three historical periods: before, during and after Belgian colonialism. Overall, results supported these hypotheses. This study complements previous narrative psychology investigations by bringing quantitative evidence according to which collective memories are structured as implicit temporal trajectories that are in line with people’s attitudes.