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Lecture 16

PSYC 2265 Lecture 16: PSYC 2265 – Lecture 16 – Autobiographical Memory: Basics and Development

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PSYC 2265
Dave Cann

PSYC 2265 – Lecture 16 – Autobiographical Memory: Basics and Development Autobiographical Memory • Autobiographical memory (AM) o Memory for the experiences that comprise or make up a person's life story • Memories vs. facts o Autobiographical memory is considered episodic memory, which is personal experiences that are relived in rich, contextual detail o Autobiographical facts are considered semantic memory, which are simple, context-free knowledge of one's own personal world o Memories usually undergo a transition from more specific episodic memories to more generic semantic memories • Methods of investigation o Autobiographical memory research differs from typical memory research in method ➢ No event is presented ▪ Memories being assessed are for events that have happened, sometimes a while ago in the past, and always are out of the experimenter's control ➢ The accuracy of these memories are difficult to assess ▪ Attempts to corroborate memories by talking to other people who experienced the same event are subject to that one's interpretations, biases, and own forgetting ➢ Researchers focus on aspects that can be assessed like age, vividness, detail, and emotional valence or intensity ➢ Despite difficulties, studies have been successful in evaluating the accuracy of autobiographical memories • Types of methodology o Targeted event recall ➢ Recalling specific events or well-defined periods from one's life; this allows for assessment of the memory's accuracy ➢ Corroborating information about target event through public record or with family members ➢ Evaluation of autobiographical memory is limited by the completeness and accuracy of the corroborating source ➢ Information recalled with this method is usually the things that stood out in a person's life o Diary technique ➢ Broader range of memories are able to be sampled compared to targeted event recall ▪ For both mundane and distinct memories ➢ The participant keeps a running record of events occurring throughout daily life, which will later be used to query memory ➢ This technique allows for firmer conclusions about memory accuracy; remembered events can be verified since they were recorded and dated as they occurred ➢ The primary vehicle for understanding processes is through how we date our memories, or place them in the correct time o Cue word technique ➢ Participants are presented with many word cues and are asked to retrieve an autobiographical memory associated with each word, then write a short description of it ➢ This allows the researcher to assess the autobiographical retention function (the distribution of personal episodic memories across the lifespan) ▪ Memory is low for childhood memories (childhood amnesia), memories increase for early adult ages (reminiscence bump), and then decrease • Childhood amnesia o Few memories from early childhood, with almost none before the age of 3 o The emergence of autobiographical memory and the offset of childhood amnesia are synonymous concepts o Methodological problems ➢ There is no guarantee that participants are truly remembering events (could simply be remembering pictures, someone else's memory of the event) ➢ We can avoid pitfalls of faulty memory recall by asking about salient events from childhood that can be corroborated • Usher & Neisser (1993) o Participants were asked to recall a number of critical events from their childhood that were documented in order for them to be checked with relatives (types include birth of a sibling, family move, death in the family, and hospitalization) o Asked how frequently and recently they had rehearsed (thought about it) the event, and if they had seen pictures of it o Memory was tested with a set of questions asking basic information about each of the events o Results: ➢ Relatively poor memory before the age of 5 ➢ The offset of childhood amnesia occurs at different times, depending on the event ➢ Memories for sibling births and hospitalization went further back than death or family move ▪ Hospitalization may be remembered since it is a distinctive, involving, and frightening event: these may make the event unforgettable ▪ The bi
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