PSYB30H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Autobiographical Memory, 2-Step Garage, Narration

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15 Apr 2012
Many scholars contended that modern lives are meaningful to the extent that they
conform to or express culturally meaningful stories
A person’s identity is not to be found in behavior nor in the reactions of others, but in the
capacity to keep a particular narrative going
Though life stories are grounded in reality, they are nonetheless imaginative and creative
productions that each of us constructs and reconstructs as we move through our adult
We make a life by making a story, and the stories we make become parts of who we are
Traits provide a dispositional outline concerning cross-situational trends in behavior
(level 1)
Characteristic adaptations fill in the details by specifying motivational, social-cognitive,
and developmental issues and concerns (level 2)
Life stories tell us how a person sees his or her life in the overall and over time and what
the overall meaning and purpose of that life might be (level 3)
The Meaning of Stories
The Narrating Mind
Human brain is designed to construe experience in narrative terms
Human consciousness in a matter of mentally taking on the position of a narrator
Consciousness involves the continuous narration or telling of lived experience
At the highest level of consciousness, a personal narrative is constructed
Bruner argues that human beings understand the world in two different ways
o Paradigmatic mode: comprehend experience in tightly reasoned analysis, logical
proof, and empirical observations; order our world in terms of logical theories; we
look for cause-and-effect relationships; educational training reinforces this mode
o Narrative mode: concerns itself with stories; deals with human wants, needs and
goals; good novelists are masters of this mode
Narrative mode = “mean more than they can say”
Paradigmatic mode = “say no more than they mean”
Paradigmatic mode is a strangely humbler form of thought than story making
Healing and Integration
Beyond entertaining and edifying us, stories may also function to integrate aspects of our
lives and to heal that which is sick or broken
Some scholars and scientists have suggested that integrations and healing are two
primary psychological functions of stories and storytelling
The fairy tales speak softly and subtly to children, gently but steadily promoting
psychological growth and adaptation
Simply writing or performing story about oneself can prove to be an experience of
healing and growth
The healing power of story arises as a major theme in certain forms of psychotherapy
where the explicit goal of the treatment is the depathologizing of life
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Some psychoanalyst maintain that the development of a coherent life story is a major
goal in therapy
Psychoanalysis involves the coordination of successive narrations whereby the analyst
and the client come to construct more adequate and vitalizing stories about the self
As many as ¼ of the participants in studies cry during disclosures and many feel
depressed for a long time after telling
Respondents tend to rate the experience of disclosing to be valuable and would want to
do it again
Translating personal trauma into words appears to have long-term health benefits
Opportunity of telling the full story of a stressful event of the past enhances health
People who ruminated obsessively about the death of their spouses had more health
problems during the year following the death, but those who talked about it with others
had fewer obsessive thoughts and fewer health problems in the following year
Students who wrote about their traumas for 4 consecutive days showed improved
immune-system functioning by the 4th day
Disclosure of traumatic events improves health because the process of inhibiting negative
feelings about events requires excessive physiological work, such as high heart rate, skin
conductance and blood pressure.
Over the long haul, the effects of the physiological arousal accumulate leafing to such
stress-related illnesses
The more the person tries to inhibit thoughts and emotions, the more he/she is likely to
think about that which is being inhibited
Confronting the emotions allows the person to put it behind him/her and move on
2 things make disclosure reduce the physiological arousal
o The degree of negative emotion expressed
o The extent to which a traumatic event is reconstructed as a well-formed story
People whose health improved the most after disclosure used more negative emotion
words than positive words
Pennebaker concluded that both the disclosure of negative emotion and the building of a
clear cognitive story are important components in health writing
Feeling and Story: Tomkins’s Script Theory
Affects are the primary motivators of human behavior
Affects such as excitement, joy and anger are independent of drives but amplify drives by
providing them with motivational power
o In Tomkins’s view, sex drive itself is not a strong motivator of behavior; sex
moves the person to act in a sexual manner when amplified by the effect of
According to Tomkins’s, natural selection has operated on humans to favor the evolution
of a highly differentiated and specialized system of emotions
Those emotions often identified as primary by Tomkins’s include interest/excitement,
enjoyment, surprise, distress, anger, disgust, fear/anxiety, sadness, shame, and guilt
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Each of the primary emotions can be distinguished on a number of different levels
o Each feels qualitatively different from all the others
o Each emotion is innately linked to a specific facial response
Particular facial expressions are thought to be natural manifestations of primary emotions
Mexicans, Brazilians, Germans, Japanese, Americans, and members of certain preliterate
tribes tend to agree about the meaning of different facial expressions
Occurrence of certain emotions can be shown by measuring electrical activity in the face
and brain
o Individuals were asked to imagine pleasant and unpleasant scenes while changes
in the electrical muscular impulses in their faces were monitored
o Electrical activity in the face matches the muscular movements
Different cultures establish different display rules that determine the appropriateness of
expressing certain emotions through facial behavior in certain situations
Emotions emerge as they become adaptive in the life of the infant
Tomkins’s identified 2 different approaches to ideological approaches to life
o Normativism
o Humanism
Normativism asserts that human beings are inherently flawed or evil and therefore need
to be held in check by strong rules and clearly defined contingencies
More liberal in orientation, humanism sees human beings as good or capable of
goodness, and it tends to affirm self-expression and love as basic human values
Normativists are more likely than humanists to emphasize the effects of excitement and
anger in their personal experiences
Humanists are more likely to emphasize effects of joy and fear
Adults scoring high on a normativism scale tended to recall negative memories associated
with anger while those high in humanism recalled negative memories associated with fear
and distress
What we believe to be good and true about the world may be partly driven by what we
tend to feel
Scenes and Scripts
Basic Concepts
o Tomkins’s views the person as a playwright who fashions his/her own personal
drama from the earliest weeks of life
o Each scene is an organized whole that includes persons, place, time, actions, and
o Scripts enable us to make sense of the relations among various scenes
o A script is a set of rules for interpreting, creating, enhancing, or defending against
a family or related scenes
o Each of us organizes the many scenes in our lives according to our own
idiosyncratic scripts
o The short-term importance of any particular scene in a person’s life is likely to be
a function of the quality of the affect in the scene (an argument with your mother
may have brought feelings of anger)
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