Chapter 7 Review
Key Terms from Lecture
Autobiographical memory – Type of memory for information related to oneself. It involves
both episodic and semantic memories.
Personal semantics – Memory for facts related to oneself such as where one was born, what
kind of car one drives, how many cousins one has, etc.
Self-schema – Refers to general characteristics related to oneself such as likes and dislikes.
Diary method – Method using cues taken from diary entries to study autobiographical
Memory probe methods – Methods involving cues to elicit autobiographical memories for
Autobiographical knowledge base – facts about ourselves and our past that form the basis for
Experienced self – the “me.”
Working self – our self-schema or knowledge of oneself that is constantly being updated by
goals and new experiences.
Infantile amnesia – Refers to the phenomena that people tend to recall relatively few memories
from the first 2 to 5 years of life.
Reminiscence bump – Phrase coined by Rubin, Wetzler, and Nebes (1986) to describe the
observation that people over the age of 40 tend to report more memories from the ages of 15 – 30
years than other periods in their past.
Life narrative – A coherent account of who we are and how we got here that is built up through
Flashbulb memory – A special case of autobiographical memory for major events with an
exceptional level of vividness and detail.
Repression – Active forgetting for psychological reasons.
Functional amnesia – The loss of memory for past events when there is no biological evidence
leading to the loss. Examples include psychogenic fugue and psychogenic amnesia.
Situation-specific amnesia – forgetting of a single, specific event. Psychogenic fugue – Case of memory loss in which almost all memories of one’s personal past
Psychogenic amnesia – Refers to the inability to recall the time period around an anxiety-
Key Concepts from Lecture
1. Characteristics of autobiographical memories:
a. Depends on both episodic and semantic memory systems.
b. Involves personal semantics – Memory for facts related to oneself such as
birthdate, birthplace, etc.
c. Involves self-schema – General characteristics related to oneself such as likes and
d. Autobiographical memories play a unique role in our lives; they define oneself.
e. Autobiographical memories are difficult to study experimentally because the
experimenter lacks control over the learning situations.
2. Functions of autobiographical memories (Williams, Conway, & Cohen, 2008):
a. Directive functions – using past experiences to solve problems.
b. Social functions – bonding people together or separating them.
c. Self-representational functions – creating and maintaining our self-image.
d. Coping with adversity – remembering happier times during difficult times to help
cope with the situation; remembering previous successes in coping with past
3. Overlapping functions of autobiographical memories – findings from Bluck et al.’s
(2005) Thinking About Life Experiences (TALE) Questionnaire:
a. Autobiographical memories serve a variety of overlapping purposes, including:
i. Directive functions
ii. Self-related functions – building a self-image
iii. Nurturing existing relationships
iv. Developing new social relationships
4. Methods for studying autobiographical memory
a. Diary method
i. Participants record events in a diary at set intervals and memories for
those events are tested. Examples of testing methods:
1. Ask participants to put the events in chronological order (e.g.,
2. Ask participants to recall past episodes from cues based on actual
diary entries (e.g., Wagenaar, 1986).
Wagenaar (1986) found that manipulating the number of types of
cues he provided to himself affected his ability to remember
events. a. Who, what, and where cues were equally effective in
prompting a memory.
b. When cues by themselves were less efficient.
c. Although the recall task was often difficult and unpleasant,
he found that he was able to eventually recall most events
with the right cues and with the help of others involved.
b. Memory probe methods, e.g., Crovitz and Shiffman (1974):
i. Cue-word method – Ask participants to recall an autobiographical
memory related to a presented cue word. For example, words such as
“invitation,” “holiday,” “funeral,” etc. may be presented and the
participant responds with specific autobiographical memories.
ii. Time-period cueing – Ask participants to remember something that
happened to them during a particular time period. For example, asking
participants to recall memories from high school, college, etc.
1. People are bad at recalling memories based on temporal cues,
especially when there are multiple events clustered around the
same time period.
c. Count the number of memories and examine their quality such as characteristics,
details, accuracy (if possible, for example, check with a spouse), etc.
5. Conway’s (2005) theory of autobiographical memory: The Autobiographical Knowledge
a. A system that retains knowledge concerning the experienced self, i.e., the “me,”
consisting of and based on the interactions between:
i. Autobiographical knowledge base – a series of episodes that are important
to our life history.
ii. The working self – consists of our self-schema or knowledge of oneself,
personal details, and future goals. It is constantly being updated by goals
and new experiences. It is also shaped by one’s family background, peers,
myths, and stereotypes. 6. Periods of relative lack or abundance of memories
a. Infantile amnesia – The phenomena that people tend to recall relatively few
memories from the first 2 to 5 years of life.
i. Possible reasons for infantile amnesia:
1. Underdeveloped hippocampus (a structure shown to be important
for memory storage and retrieval).
2. Underdeveloped sense of self.
3. Freudian repression?
b. Reminiscence bump (Rubin, Wetzler, & Nebes, 1986)
- Perhaps there is a bias in reporting more memories from this period because they
think about this period more often?
- In other words, it may be that people are reporting more from this time period
rather than more memories being “remembered” from this time period.
- The life narrative (Gluck & Bluck, 2007)
i. A coherent account of who we are and how we got here that is built up
ii. Involves a schema or set of milestones that define “what is supposed to
happen in your life.” For example, age of first love, marriage, job
promotion, etc. Bernsten and Rubin (2004) noticed that most of these
events occur during the reminiscence bump.