PSY270H1 Chapter 8: Everyday Memory

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Published on 12 Mar 2019
PSY270 Chapter 8: Everyday Memory
Memory as Identity
Autobiographical memory (AM): includes episodic memories of events we’ve
experienced as well as semantic memories of basic facts about ourselves (e.g.,
our names, where we live, and whether we are married
To study autobiographical memory researchers must rely on retrospective
reporting of events that they have already passed outside of experimental control
The Function of Autobiographical Memory
Three different functions memory can play
Directive: memory can serve to guide current actions
Social: in order to allow people with shared experiences to increase their
social bonds
Self-representation: analyzing what you’ve done in the past can help
you determine what kind of behaviors and relationships you engage in so
that you can maintain a stable identity in the future
Research has indicated that patterns of using autobiographical
memories for self-reflection can be associated with symptoms of
Specifically, if subjects had a higher rate of internal reflections on
the past but were less likely to share those memories with others,
they were more likely to experience depression
Individuals with higher rates of depression appear to experience
salient physiological arousal when recalling negative, past events
but conversely are less affected by positive events than those with
lower rates of depression
Our recall of personal events can strongly impact our self-
Tiers of Autobiographical Memory
Three tiers of AM:
Lifetime period: the broadest category of memories, which represent
major, distinguishable portions of our lives that have a specific beginning
and ending in time
May include memories that can be organized under broad
headings such as:grade school, college, first job, or living in a
particular city
There is no fixed definition or time duration of what counts as a
lifetime period
General events: specific sequences of events that are all somehow
These might pertain to achieving some goal such as starting a
romantic relationship or buying a new car
They make up the small stories of our life - they encompass
multiple memories but all relate to a basic theme
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Event-specific knowledge: the most specific tier, which refers to
detailed memories of particular times, places, and actions, typically
accompanied by the ability to ‘relive’ the events unfolding over time
Typically referred to as mental time-travel
Essentially the episodic memory component of AM
A group of individuals identified as having High Superior Autobiographical
Memory (HSAM) have reported experiencing event-specific memories as if
viewing the memories through a video recording
Autobiographical Memory Across the Lifespan
Infantile Amnesia
Childhood or infantile amnesia: refers to the fact that most adults
remember very few, or even no, episodic memories from before the ages
of two to four years old
Bauer and Lakina (2015)
Conducted a longitudinal study to track changes which occur
across the early childhood
The researchers assessed memory for events of different age
groups and assessed their ability to recall that event after a gap of
one, two and three years
Although both children and adults show increased forgetting with
time, there were more rapid increases in forgetting for younger
children (four and six) compared to older children
Found that the difference in recall can be reduced if children are
provided cues to aid their memory
Infantile/Childhood amnesia only applies to episodic memories
Infantile amnesia is similar to other forms of amnesia, which do not
typically affect implicit memories as much as explicit ones
During childhood, the brain produces a lot of new neurons, a process
called neurogenesis in the hippocampus
It is possible that this building of the brain causes memories to be
Another hypothesized mechanism for infantile amnesia is that it has to do
with young children’s underdeveloped language abilities
This idea is that the ability to reconstruct episodic events may
depend on being able to encode them as a linguistic ‘story,’ an
ability that younger children don’t have
A final possible factor in infantile amnesia relates to state-dependent
learning because children and adults have such different emotional
responses to events
Because highly events often tend to be what is remembered, this
mismatch may lead to an inability to retrieve memories
Reminiscence Bump
Reminiscence bump: the ‘bump’ in memory during late adolescence and
early adulthood, from the ages of around 15-25
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maturational/biological factors
Other basic cognitive abilities are at their peak during the same
approximate age as the reminiscence bump
Schrauf and Rubin (2001): tested the memories of 55 year olds who had
emigrated from their country
Included some who emigrated at the age of the standard
reminiscence bump as well as those who emigrated well after
Found that all the groups showed a reminiscence bump around
the time of their emigration
In other words, the reminiscence bump doesn’t seem to depend
strictly on biological age. Instead, the reminiscence bump is likely
due to richer memories of the times when people are undergoing
a lot of changes in their lives
Flashbulb Memories
Flashbulb memories: memories for high-emotion events
Neisser and Harsch (1992)
Interviewed people the day after 9/11 had occurred and recorded their
own recounting of their experiences the next dau
Then they went back to the same people 2-3 years after the events had
taken place and again recorded their memories
If ‘flashbulb memories’ are really resistant to forgetting, then their later
recollections should have matched their original ones perfectly after the
passage of the time
Instead, they found after a years’ time, people often remembered very
different and conflicting pieces of information
However, people were highly confident in their memories, unaware that
their responses had changed dramatically over time
Talarico and Rubin (2002)
Found a similar pattern for flashbulb and everyday memories
Both flashbulb and everyday memories showed a decline in accuracy
over time, but people’s confidence in their memories remained high for
flashbulb events compared with every day events
Davison, Cook, and Glisky (2006)
Additionally used a cued recall task
Participants were interviewed immediately after the event and one year
They were additionally given single-word triggers to help jog their memory
if they forgot specific events
Also explored whether emotionally salient events were better recalled by
older adults with low and high frontal lobe functioning
Found that after a year delay, all participants were able to recall a high
percentage of details despite a significant decrease in participants being
able to recall details about an emotionally neutral control event
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