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Brewer, D. D., Garrett, S. B., & Rinaldi, G. (2002). Patterns in the recall of sexual and drug injection partners. Advances in Medical Sociology (Social Networks and Health), 8, 131-149.  Reprinted with permission from Elsevier.  

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Abstract: Persons with multiple sexual partners forget a significant proportion of their sexual partners when asked to recall them (Brewer, Garrett, & Kulasingam, 1999).  Similarly, drug injectors forget a large proportion of the persons with whom they inject drugs.  Forgetting of sexual and drug injection partners in contact interviews for partner notification and social network research hinders efforts to understand and control the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV.  We address this problem by describing the cognitive structures people use to organize their partners in memory and developing interviewing techniques that exploit these structures to enhance recall of partners.  One hundred fifty-six persons presumed to be at high risk for HIV freely recalled their sexual and injection partners.  These subjects tended to cluster, or mention successively, partners who interacted with each other, partners with whom they had the same kind of role relationship, and partners with whom they interacted in the same type of location.  The pauses between adjacently recalled pairs of partners typically correlated moderately negatively with pairs’ perceived level of interaction.  Subjects tended to list partners with whom they had more frequent sexual or injection contact earlier in recall than those with whom they had less frequent contact, and they also tended to recall partners in rough forward or reverse chronological order.  The four supplementary interviewing techniques we developed for enhancing recall of partners involve cues that correspond to the organizing factors of partner memory we identified (network ties, role relationships, locations, and chronology).

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