“I never said that!” and “You’re remembering it wrong!” are common phrases used by couples when discussing past arguments. There is a reason why couples remember fights differently, and it all has to do with interpretation.
Research done by Dr. Michael Ross, Professor Emeritus in the Psychology department at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, showed that during fights couples tend to remember what they felt at the time of an argument rather than what was actually occurring.
“You may recall something differently at least in part because you understood it differently at the time,” said Ross in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
According to a study from the The Journal of Behavioral Assessment in the 1980s, men and women disagreed about past events to such a degree that some couples couldn't completely agree on whether or not they had sex the night prior.
When tested for memory, women and men are equally able to remember past events, but are much more likely to remember the things they personally did and said rather than what their partner said or did. Rather than thinking about what a partner wants or needs out of the disagreement, the individual is more likely to be concerned with their wants due to an egocentric bias.
Another important factor in how a person remembers an argument is the mood of the individual, both during the fight and when recalling it later. If a person is in a negative mood when remembering a fight, they may remember it more negatively than it really was, and vice versa.
In conjunction with negative mood, those who lose an argument are more likely to remember it more clearly than the person who won. Women are more likely to lose arguments with their male partners, which is why they more often recall what has been said or done during fights.
Recalling past memories later on can change the way that they are interpreted. What you are remembering could just be your most recent version of the event, rather than what actually transpired.Read more in Gender Differences in Health