Sharing the Burden: Transactive Memory, Relationships, and Kindness

Transactive memory, relationships, andOne area of research I always found fascinating was the idea of transactive memory (the key psychologist working on transactive memory, Dan Wegner, was on my undergraduate thesis committee). Transactive memory refers to how people in a group each have (often unspoken) responsibility for remembering some shared information or tasks. Others in the group then don’t make the effort to personally learn those things; rather, they rely on their teammates for the skills or knowledge when they need it. In a romantic relationship, transactive memory might look like one partner remembering the names of people’s spouses and kids, and the other partner remembering when each utility bill is due and who to pay.

In a highly functional relationship, I would argue that transactive memory takes the form of a type of kindness, a set of services each person does for their partner and takes pleasure in providing. It’s also a neat little demonstration of how being close with another person can change your behavior and your mind.

What have you remembered for someone else recently?