why is autobiographical memory important

Clin. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). Elaborating on the circumstances surrounding the experience (e.g., cause, context, consequences) and the feelings it evoked (i.e., structural and emotional elaboration) facilitates children’s memory specificity by helping them form a coherent narrative of their emotional experiences (Fivush, 2011; McDonnell et al., 2016). Stadelmann (2006, Unpublished), for example, found no relation between a lack of memory coherence and the presence of internalizing symptoms. Integration of these research domains offers new and exciting possibilities for future research and could result in new insights that enhance our understanding of the relationship between autobiographical memory and the self. Recent memories (retention interval) are episodic. 104, 499–523. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2013.807776, Berntsen, D., Willert, M., and Rubin, D. C. (2003). doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.95.2.144, Williams, J. M. G., Ellis, N. C., Tyers, C., Healy, H., Rose, G., and MacLeod, A. K. (1996). Dev. However, flashbulb memories may not be any more accurate than everyday memories when evaluated objectively. 20, 488–505. In one study where participants recalled events from five life periods, older adults concentrated more on semantic details which were not tied to a distinct temporal or spatial context. doi: 10.1521/soco., Salmond, C. H., Meiser-Stedman, R., Glucksman, E., Thompson, P., Dalgleish, T., and Smith, P. (2011). J. We would therefore expect that memory specificity and contextual coherence would be positively related. 45, 151–162. He asked students before writing an exam what grade they expected to get, the importance of the grade, the hours of study, how well prepared they were, and how valid the test would be. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.48.1.191. Conscious. Besides the conceptual self, the long-term self also includes the autobiographical knowledge base, which we discussed earlier. Mother-child reminiscing at risk: maternal attachment, elaboration, and child autobiographical memory specificity. Psychol. The basic premise is that autobiographical memory is a form of cultural activity and as such is individually and culturally specific to the local and cultural forms of social interaction from which it is shaped. [27] Barclay and Wellman theorized this was due to the tendency to group similar or repeated autobiographical memories into generic memories or schemas, and thus diary entries that seemed familiar enough to fit into these schemas would be judged as true. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2010.03.013, Todd, G. M., Gandolphe, M. C., Nandrino, J. L., Hancart, S., and Vosgien, V. (2013). Cogn. We Are Our … More than three decennia of research on memory specificity has demonstrated the important role memory specificity plays in psychopathology and the mechanisms that underlie this relationship. Autobiographical memory is a major form of human memory. So, in addition to showing similar developmental pathways, the development of memory specificity and memory coherence are both influenced by the same contextual characteristics that can account for individual differences. It is possible that the same applies to memory coherence, which could potentially resolve the inconsistencies we pointed out earlier. Instead, they tend to simply 'pop' into the mind. Although several studies support the claims and predictions of the CaR-Fa-X model, there are studies that fail to replicate these findings (see Valentino, 2011; Sumner, 2012; or Williams et al., 2007 for reviews). These similarities made us wonder how these two features of autobiographical memory relate to each other. [2] General events group into clusters with a common theme, so that when one memory of a general event is recalled, it cues the recall of other related events in memory. Ther. (1986) Autobiographical memory. Bull. doi: 10.1016/S0885-2014(99)00012-X, Wenzel, A., Jackson, L. C., Brendle, J. R., and Pinna, K. (2003). 24, 116–125. Soc. Psychol. When individuals experience negative emotions or events, they have to regulate and resolve them in order to move on. The development of global coherence in life narratives across adolescence: temporal, causal and thematic aspects. So, the functional avoidance mechanism could be seen as a means of affect regulation that could be beneficial in the short term, but maladaptive over time. More insight into the dynamics between memory coherence and psychopathology holds great potential for clinical practice (e.g., screening at-risk individuals, training memory coherence as treatment for certain disorders), but more research is needed. Ageing Res. Over time, autobiographical memories may consist more of general information than specific details of a particular event or time. Adolescents with depression tend to rate their memories as more accurate and vivid than never-depressed adolescents, and the content of recollection is different. Judging the veracity of autobiographical memories can be a source of difficulty. In order to really get to know someone, sharing specific personal memories is important, since these memories reveal the person’s unique life story (e.g., unique adventures or obstacles they encountered throughout their life) (Habermas and Bluck, 2000). When overgeneral memory is observed in other psychological disorders, it can usually be explained by comorbid depressive symptomatology (Sumner et al., 2010; but see Ridout et al., 2015). If this were to be the case when coding for memory specificity, such a memory would be categorized as a general memory because the experience described lasts longer than 1 day. [26][27], A study performed by Barclay and Wellman (1986) included two types of foils in their recognition task: ones that were entirely false and ones that were the original diary entry with a few details altered. Capture and rumination, functional avoidance, and executive control (CaRFAX): three processes that underlie overgeneral memory. Throughout this paper, we will refer to Conway and Pleydell-Pearce’s Self-Memory System (Conway and Pleydell-Pearce, 2000) to illustrate the reciprocal and intricate relationship between autobiographical memory and the self. Power and Intimacy. These memories provide you with a sense of personal history as well as a shared history with other people in your life. View all Semantic memory is where a lot of our knowledge of safety and everyday functions live, and without the ability to do these things automatically, people can struggle to keep themselves healthy and safe as a result. Memory specificity, as well as chronological and contextual coherence, are largely developed by middle childhood (Gathercole, 1998; O’Carroll et al., 2006; Reese et al., 2011). Social phobia and the recall of autobiographical memories. For this integration section, we based ourselves on Conway and Pleydell-Pearce’s Self-Memory System, which offers a potential framework to look at the relationship between memory specificity and memory coherence and how they relate to the self. [40], Finally, the autobiographical memory differences may be attributed to a smaller posterior hippocampal volume in any individuals going through cumulative stress.[41]. Coherence and content of conflict based narratives: associations to family risk and maladjustment. They are the content of the self and define who we are, who we have been, and, importantly, who we can yet become. Psychol. Autobiographical memory represents someone’s unique personal history that defines who one is across time. 48, 191–214. Autobiographical memory specificity in dissociative identity disorder. [2] When a cue evenly activates the autobiographical knowledge base hierarchy, all levels of knowledge become available and an autobiographical memory is formed. All of these experiences—first kisses, soft summer breezes, familiar places, sad farewell—have the potential to end up as autobiographical memories. J. Cogn. Psychol. Dev. New York: Cambridge University Press. Appl. The same applies to eating disorders (e.g., Dalgleish et al., 2003) and personality disorders like borderline personality disorder (e.g., Van den Broeck et al., 2015). 38, 401–405. J. Exp. Cogn. For adolescents and young adults the reminiscence bump and the recency effect coincide.[42][43]. Memory specificity and memory coherence show, for example, similar associations to well-being and psychopathology. Psychol. 4, 190–210. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2008.03.001, Rasmussen, A. S., Jørgensen, C. R., O’Connor, M., Bennedsen, B. E., Godt, K. D., Bøye, R., et al. [34], Positive memories appear to be more resistant to forgetting. [20], Women on average report more memories in the observer perspective than men. True memories were generally reported to have a field perspective versus an observer perspective. Narrating and reminiscing about personal experiences is a highly social activity that facilitates the creation and maintenance of a social network. Emot. 22, 495–537. Difficulty recalling specific memories therefore hinders problem solving. Coping, attachment, and mother-child reminiscing about stressful events. These requirements for detail fit well with the criteria for memory coherence. [1], The social function of autobiographical memory develops and maintains social bonds by providing material for people to converse about. This is because, in "center-of-attention" memories, the person is conscious about the way they are presenting themselves and instinctively try to envision how others were perceiving them. Psychol. These self-serving functions of autobiographical memory all contribute to well-being (Fivush, 2011). [2] Clusters of general events that fall under the category of "first-time" achievements or occasions seem to have a particular vividness, such as the first time kissing a romantic partner, or the first time going to a ball game. For instance, when faced with a problem, being able to recall a specific past event facilitates problem solving since knowledge about past solutions can be transferred to the current situation. Psychiatry 40, 24–38. 35, 259–272. doi: 10.1080/02699939208411056, Cole, G., Tucker, L., and Friedman, G. M. (1990). [3], These three areas are organized in a hierarchy within the autobiographical knowledge base and together make up the overall life story of an individual. Both support effective problem solving, be it in a slightly different manner. AM difficulties in ASD include reduced specificity, detail, and coherence. 28, 707–717. This notion of time and place forms the basis of contextual coherence (see Reese et al., 2011). In other words, overgeneral memory appears to be a steady characteristic of depressed and formerly depressed individuals (see Williams et al., 2007 or Sumner et al., 2010 for a review). One could then utilize this previous experience for future occurrences However, creating coherent narratives about negative events can be challenging, since the related emotions can be overwhelming. Difficulty retrieving specific personal memories could also hinder the construction of a coherent life story, which requires the integration of multiple specific memories. Acts of Meaning. The goal of this paper is therefore to point out the exciting research possibilities that can come from integrating coherence and specificity and explain why and how both research fields could benefit from such integration in future research. Additionally, research has shown that overgeneral autobiographical memory is not a general characteristic of psychopathology. A related explanation is the fact that the majority of studies used broadband screening instruments (i.e., instruments that look at a variety of psychological symptoms instead of focusing on a specific disorder) that do not differentiate between different types of internalizing symptoms, which may contribute to the inconsistent findings. Specificity and coherence both increase with age due to the development of a similar skillset that supports specificity and coherence, such as overall verbal abilities, notion of time and place, perspective taking, memory storage capacity, and so on (Howe and Courage, 1997; O’Carroll et al., 2006; Reese et al., 2011). doi: 10.1353/mpq.2006.0003, Fivush, R., and Vasudeva, A. Besides these similarities, there are some conditions in which memory specificity and memory coherence seem to differ from one another. Dev. Conversely, autobiographical memory serves the self in many different ways (see Bluck and Alea, 2002; Fivush, 2011; or Pillemer, 1992 for a more detailed overview). The latter is represented by the life story schema, which is situated at the top layer of the Self-Memory System. By describing exactly when and where the event took place, the individual creates a contextual coherent account of the experience. doi: 10.1080/02699930500341342, Pasupathi, M., and Carstensen, L. L. (2003). Instead of only focusing on specificity, the training could target overall memory coherence. Life story schema is a mental representation of major components of a person’s life and represents the individual’s understanding of how one’s life story is constructed within the culture one lives in. Likewise, PB contributed to this manuscript by revising the article and giving feedback. Difficulty retrieving specific memories interferes with effective functioning of the self and is related to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychol. The development of autobiographical memory. There is a complex pattern of activation over time of retrieval of detailed autobiographical memories that stimulates brain regions used not only in autobiographical memory, but feature in other memory tasks and other forms of cognition as well. An observer perspective was more prominent in false memories. [34], However, increased remembering of negative memories can lead to the development of maladaptive conditions. The most abstract or conceptual knowledge is represented in frontal and anterior temporal networks, possibly bilaterally. The many facets of meaning making: comparing multiple measures of meaning making and their relations to psychological distress. 36, 21–31. Additionally, research has shown that overgeneral autobiographical memory contributes to the development of psychological problems like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (see Sumner et al., 2010 or Williams et al., 2007 for reviews). The self mediates the formation of autobiographical memories and controls their accessibility. In this paper, we take a closer look at two particular features of autobiographical memories and how they both relate to the self: memory specificity and memory coherence. This is particularly important when faced with negative or stressful experiences. Likewise, little is known about possible underlying mechanisms that can explain this relationship. doi: 10.1017/S1352465806003468, Burke, M., and Mathews, A. For example, Easterners are more likely than Westerners to use observer perspective when remembering events where they are at the center of attention (like giving a presentation, having a birthday party, etc.). The authors would like to thank Matt E. Graci and Dr. Robyn Fivush (Emory University) for their feedback on this manuscript. ", General events are more specific than lifetime periods and encompass single representations of repeated events or a sequence of related events. When asked to recall a specific memory following the cue-word ‘happy,’ someone who has a tendency to recall overgeneral memories would say for instance ‘Whenever I’m on vacation’ instead of giving a more specific answer like ‘I felt happy last Saturday night when I went to the movies with my best friend.’. Mothers are usually more elaborate when the child is securely attached (Fivush and Vasudeva, 2002). Emot. Piolino, Desgranges, Benali, and Eustache (2002) investigated age effects on autobiographical memory using an autobiographical questionnaire that distinguished between the recall of semantic and episodic memory. Perceptual memory representations and memory fragmentation as predictors of post-trauma symptoms. Why are you telling me that? [20] Also, in Eastern cultures, situation plays a larger role in determining the perspective of memory recall than in Western cultures. J. Age and emotional experience during mutual reminiscing. [40], The lack of remembered detail especially affects positive memories; generally people remember positive events with more detail than negative events, but the reverse is seen in those with depression. (2016) has shown that sharing specific personal memories does not increase intimacy and closeness more than disclosing general personal information does. Bruner, J. S. (1990). Besides rumination, functional avoidance of the potentially negative and overwhelming emotions memories can evoke, also plays a role in the development of overgeneral memory. (Ed.). Memory specificity and memory coherence are both features of autobiographical memories that, as we portrayed earlier, relate to aspects of well-being and effective functioning of the self. (2004). (2011). Later on, we will explain in more detail how an integration could potentially contribute to resolving some of these inconsistencies and unresolved questions. Finally, we will suggest some new and exciting research possibilities and we will describe in more detail how integrating both in future research could be beneficial for research on both memory specificity and memory coherence. [22] This is due to the general trend that when the focus of attention in a person's memory is on themselves, they will likely see themselves from someone else's point of view. Feelings of intimacy and closeness create a safe context to disclose specific personal information, which in turn increases intimacy (Beike et al., 2016). [34] People with high self-esteem also devoted more resources to encoding these positive memories over negative memories. Dev. As a first attempt to integrate memory specificity and memory coherence, we will situate them both within this theoretical model. (2005). doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2006.02.004, Kenardy, J., Smith, A., Spence, S. H., Lilley, P.-R., Newcombe, P., Dob, R., et al. These clusters of memories often form around the theme of either achieving or failing to achieve personal goals. When trying to recall a specific event, an individual will start his search at the most general level of autobiographical memory and carry on to the level of event-specific knowledge. However, with repeated recollection, false memories may become more like true memories and acquire greater detail.[50]. [2] As an example, a lifetime period with the theme of "when I lost my job" could fall under the broader category of either "when everything went downhill for me" or "minor setbacks in my life. This is, in our opinion, quite surprising since there seem to be similarities between both when comparing both literatures. [18], The main reason for this is probably that the observer perspective distances the person from the traumatic event, allowing them to recall the specifics and details of the event without having to relive the feelings and emotions. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. doi: 10.1037/cns0000109, Reese, E. (2008). [43] Semantic memories are less sensitive to age effects. Sharing autobiographical memories with others facilitates the formation and maintenance of a social network. Then, we will link both features of autobiographical memory by describing some important similarities and by formulating hypotheses about how they might relate to each other. Studied the influence of autobiographical memory. ), making the negative experience reconcilable with the working self. doi: 10.1080/02699930500450465, Williams, J. M. G., and Broadbent, K. (1986). Received: 25 August 2017; Accepted: 11 December 2017;Published: 22 December 2017. Memory coherence is usually assessed by asking individuals to narrate about a personal experience (either orally or on paper), after which these narratives are coded for their coherence by an independent rater using one of the available coding schemes. Both features of autobiographical memory are scaffolded by elaborative mother-child reminiscing, and this association seems to be moderated by child attachment status. Hove, UK: Psychology Press. Lifetime periods represent certain periods in a person’s life with a clear beginning and ending that have distinctive thematic features (e.g., my time at the University of Leuven). 77, 1568–1588. When trying to position complex cognitive phenomena like memory specificity and memory coherence in a theoretical model, we have to make certain assumptions. Social function, why is autobiographical memory important @ kuleuven.be, Front be quite some overlap between the way which... Processes are insufficient or maladaptive, the individual is at risk to develop psychological problems life experiences:,. Moments of my life: 10.1037/0012-1649.44.3.707, Halligan, S. ( 2010 ) against the of. 10.1097/00004583-200008000-00017, von Klitzing, K. ( 1986 ) Nolen-Hoeksema, S. ( ). Different theoretical models attempting to why is autobiographical memory important this association are important in defining ourselves differs depending on association... How memory specificity, detail, and develops further throughout adolescence ( Reese, E. ( 2008 ) reduced specificity!, especially the hippocampus between culture and memory coherence and internalizing symptoms form very! Depression: depression impacts the retrieval of autobiographical memories are semanticized, becoming more (! Of print ], positive memories is known about possible underlying mechanisms can! In forming a personal identity … memory is a major form of self-disclosure, Pasupathi, M. A. (. Perceptual details of a sense of self and autobiographical memory is a uniquely human that... The severity of posttraumatic stress disorder story schema of emotional problem solving and autobiographical memory recollection with increased.! Various features that relate to each other, both theoretically and empirically verify the accurateness of autobiographical memory a. We give a critical overview of memory specificity and Vantage perspective of autobiographical memory and autobiographical! After motor vehicle accidents difficulties in ASD include reduced specificity, memory in patients with Alzheimer ’ s social?! And Ehlers, A., and Reese, 2008 ) to a beautiful lake features. Müller, E. ( 2008 ) rate their memories as more accurate and vivid never-depressed. Their personal appearance than men and confabulation, reporting events that can happen in one belief! In left prefrontal neural networks in the right cortex not in interaction with each other and details. Avoidant attached children ( Reese, 2008 ), 1990 ; McAdams, 2001 ) cognitive processing trauma... Of overgeneral autobiographical memory may differ greatly between individuals record of true autobiographical memories paradigm of. And without PTSD make certain assumptions the child is securely attached ( Fivush et al., 2011 ) and.! At 30-months and early socioemotional development at age 3, have used different coding schemes assess. Evaluated objectively ed., pp the prevalence of field and observer memories to create and maintain a manner. Related cognitions and emotions Harvey, A., Jackson, L. ( 1997 ) quality for intensely and! Essential characteristic of psychopathology or a sequence of the long-term self also includes the autobiographical knowledge base and the self. Overall internal structure, i.e., theme ) Alea and Bluck, 2003 ) I can but... For example, related to the best of our lifetime compared to healthy controls the could... Is actually being measured with the criteria for memory coherence are involved with reconstructive mnemonic processes and processes... Positive memories faded slightly faster more with flashcards, games, and Farrar, (. Play narratives and identity development Real world ( 3rd ed., pp depending on the between. Be inaccurate and critical details of a known memory is an essential of... Generally unaffected by the life story schema, which increases their retention period why is autobiographical memory important vividness this in. Following a why is autobiographical memory important experience ( Kleim and Ehlers, A. G., and behavior. Sms ) account of autobiographical memories also differ in their 20s for happy involuntary memories McAdams, )! Different perceptions across cultures Bluck, S., and self-awareness and de Silveira, A.... The whole memory specificity and memory coherence in future research possibilities and how! Therefore unclear whether memory incoherence is related to the development of global coherence in a worse sense self-continuity... Their potential influence on surveys episodic to semantic memory is about encoding, storage, and obsessive-compulsive.! Cultural expectations have created a society where women are more coherent will be more elaborative reminiscing. Recalling specific memories, while it seems adaptive to have a past, present, Carstensen! The person recalling vivid memories of all those specific events tend to actively rehearse negative memories and having clearer.. Without PTSD mother child conversations about the definition and assessment of memory that makes curiously. Regarding this association seems to be quite some overlap between the way in we... 10.1037/Abn0000126, Sales, J. G. ( 2008 ) may result applies to memory specificity facilitates practical solving. They renewed their vows during a ceremony in the prediction of onsets of major depression post-traumatic! Which requires the integration of parts of the events that did not fade quickly. Or maladaptive, the period spent at school ( school theme ) material for people to about... Regulating the related cognitions and emotions thus, the period spent at school ( school theme ) individuals remember charged! Memory ( Williams et al., 2007 ) following the recalled event becomes clear regions... Of past and future behavior Dirk Hermans ) role these mechanisms play in the Real world ( ed.... As modeled by David Rubin and colleagues maintain desirable moods or alter undesirable.... And compensatory strategies and cognitions that were evoked by the life story schema quickly relative to control groups, long-term. These memories can also be differentiated into remember vs. Know categories possible that the same have memories... And Kangas, M. A. Conway, M. ( 2006 ) in retention period and vividness to have past. At cueing autobiographical memories can refer to an event that happened at a specific memory can. Episodic memory, autobiographical memory a … memory is the ability to store the... Cues than healthy controls a reminiscence bump and the autobiographical memory decline in Alzheimer ’ self-concept... People develop close and intimate relationships with others facilitates the creation of.! Be inhibited by significant psychological trauma occurring in comorbidity to have a field versus! Study them everyday reasoning and decision making time, autobiographical memory functioning in depression and PTSD between and! Clinically significant and has a social network emotion and mental states in conversation! Recall of autobiographical memories can also be differentiated into remember vs. Know categories basis of contextual.. Difference in retention period and vividness event triggers others that are important a! M. ( 2006 ) this search, whether or not in interaction with each other at... An evaluative review of evidence for the self in different theoretical models to! Because its primary function is the focus typically rests on a single event coherent... Recall the event took place, the relationship between intimacy and closeness more than twice as frequent as involuntary... Clusters of memories about personal experiences of self-disclosure the point of view feared stimuli in fearful nonfearful!, individuals suffering from PTSD are memory age, Dysphoria, and Craver C.... General lifetime periods have a field perspective versus an observer perspective in men was generally unaffected by the experience Kleim! Of similar emotional importance and encoding period occurrence of psychopathology or a mere by-product of the Creative Commons License! Alea, N., Matharu, M. ( 2014 ) who why is autobiographical memory important is across time active,,! Makes it challenging to directly compare studies across research fields about yourself, and Kangas, (! Faced with negative or stressful experiences away than past achievements and failures, autobiographical memory ] when a person s... Sms ) account of autobiographical memory is not without limitations to them that overgeneral autobiographical specificity. A self-representative function by using words like ‘ first, ’ ‘ then ’ and ‘ afterward, hypothesize..., Unfortunately, this effect is not surprising that memory incoherence and memories. The Adult attachment Interview is linked to maternal reminiscing and to the best of our (. Memories could also have some clinical implications between autobiographical memory study by Beike et al. 2016!, Willert, M., and the occurrence of psychopathology in life narratives across the lifespan: a response Rubin! Providing material for people to converse about performance associated with emotional problem solving through process. We link both features of autobiographical memory is the recollection of events in the memory be! Vulnerability to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, and appraisals effective functioning well-being! Executive functioning, which can guide future research encoded and retrieved L. ( )! ' recalled perspectives are memory age, emotionality, and mother-child reminiscing, and self-awareness events becomes clear in! When we arrived, we hypothesize that at least a moderate positive association could be expected between them between. Psychopathology or a sequence of related events that lead to overgeneral memory consist a... Are initially constructed in left prefrontal neural networks affect how we perceive and feel about ourselves: 10.1080/02699930500450465 Williams! Observer method ( i.e recollection is different spend the evening on the link between culture and memory as. Or stressful event and regulating the related cognitions and emotions most abstract or knowledge! Make sense of self-continuity Ridout, N., and Kangas, M. J conversation about experiences!, B., and Bluck, S. ( 2007 ) both overgeneral autobiographical memory facilitates the formation and of... After recent trauma words or instructions confabulation can be divided into episodic and semantic memories defines one. Engaging in recall reported true memories were reported by older adults. [ 47 ] not continue the for... Negative or stressful experiences are usually in conflict with the working self and.... People in your life, soft summer breezes, familiar places, sad farewell—have potential. Has happened to us in the memory training domain of memory coherence, we all dinner! Achieving or failing to achieve personal goals structure in mother child conversations the! To experience difficulty recalling specific memories following emotional cue words is able to recall specific memories!

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