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Concept: Autobiographical memory

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The current study examined memory specificity of autobiographical memories in individuals with and without a repressive coping style. It seems conceivable that reduced memory specificity may be a way to reduce accessibility of negative experiences, one of the hallmark features of a repressive coping style. It was therefore hypothesized that repressors would show reduced specificity when retrieving negative memories. In order to study memory specificity, participants (N = 103) performed the autobiographical memory test. Results showed that individuals with a repressive coping style were significantly less specific in retrieving negative experiences, relative to control groups of low anxious, high anxious, and defensive high anxious individuals. This result was restricted to negative memory retrieval, as participants did not differ in memory specificity for positive experiences. These results show that repressors retrieve negative autobiographical memories in an overgeneral way, possibly in order to avoid negative affect.

Concepts: Scientific method, Psychology, Affect, Memory, Episodic memory, Amnesia, Autobiographical memory, Information retrieval

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Autobiographical memories are a key component of our identity. Here, in the light of Cuervo-Lombard and colleagues' paper in this issue, we review impairments in autobiographical memory in schizophrenia and the association between autobiographical memory and outcome in the disorder. We also discuss whether these deficits are specific to schizophrenia and a possible link with traumatic events.

Concepts: Cognition, Memory, Hippocampus, The Association, Episodic memory, Identity, Key, Autobiographical memory

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The intricately interwoven role of detailed autobiographical memory in our daily lives and in our imaginative envisioning of the future is increasingly recognized. But how is the detail-rich nature of autobiographical memory best assessed and, in particular, how can possible aging-related differences in autobiographical memory specificity be most effectively evaluated? This study examined whether a modified interview, involving fewer and time-matched events for older and younger adults, yielded age-related outcomes similar to those that have been previously reported. As in earlier studies, modest age-related changes in the specificity of autobiographical recall were observed, yet the largest most robust effect for both age groups was the substantial proportion of specific details retrieved. Both age groups rated recent memories as significantly less important and as less emotional than more temporally distant events. Our findings counter conceptions of older adults' autobiographical memories as invariably less episodically rich than those of younger adults.

Concepts: Psychology, Future, Cognition, Memory, Difference, Specificity, Episodic memory, Autobiographical memory

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Over-general autobiographical memory (OAM) retrieval is characterized by retrieval of categoric autobiographical memories. According to the CarFAX model, this tendency may result from avoidance which functions to protect the person against recalling details of upsetting memories. This study tested whether avoidance strategies impact on the ability to retrieve specific autobiographical memories. Healthy participants (N=51) watched a negative video clip and were instructed to either suppress any thought (thought suppression), suppress any feeling (emotional inhibition), or think and feel naturally (controls) in response to the video. Participants then completed the Autobiographical Memory Test. Participants engaging in either thought suppression or emotional inhibition retrieved fewer categoric autobiographical memories than controls. These findings challenge the affect regulation component of the CarFAX model insofar as they suggest that regulatory strategies that aim to reduce awareness of adverse emotional memories do not necessarily lead to increased recall of categoric autobiographical memories.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Thought, Emotion, Feeling, Autobiographical memory

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Training in mindfulness skills has been shown to increase autobiographical memory specificity. The aim of this study was to examine whether there is also an association between individual differences in trait mindfulness and memory specificity using a non-clinical student sample (N = 70). Also examined were the relationships between other memory characteristics and trait mindfulness, self-reported depression and rumination. Participants wrote about 12 autobiographical memories, which were recalled in response to emotion word cues in a minimal instruction version of the Autobiographical Memory Test, rated each memory for seven characteristics, and completed the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory, the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale, and the Ruminative Responses Scale. Higher rumination scores were associated with more reliving and more intense emotion during recall. Depression scores were not associated with any memory variables. Higher trait mindfulness was associated with lower memory specificity and with more intense and more positive emotion during recall. Thus, trait mindfulness is associated with memory specificity, but the association is opposite to that found in mindfulness training studies. It is suggested that this difference may be due to an influence of trait mindfulness on memory encoding as well as retrieval processes and an influence on the mode of self-awareness that leads to a greater focus on momentary rather than narrative self-reference.

Concepts: Psychology, Addition, Memory, Major depressive disorder, Storage, Autobiographical memory, Encoding, Great Depression

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We introduce a new scale, the Involuntary Autobiographical Memory Inventory (IAMI), for measuring the frequency of involuntary autobiographical memories and involuntary future thoughts. Using the scale in relation to other psychometric and demographic measures provided three important, novel findings. First, the frequency of involuntary and voluntary memories and future thoughts are similarly related to general measures of emotional distress. This challenges the idea that the involuntary mode is uniquely associated with emotional distress. Second, the frequency of involuntary autobiographical remembering does not decline with age, whereas measures of daydreaming, suppression of unwanted thoughts and dissociative experiences all do. Thus, involuntary autobiographical remembering relates differently to aging than daydreaming and other forms of spontaneous and uncontrollable thoughts. Third, unlike involuntary autobiographical remembering, the frequency of future thoughts does decrease with age. This finding underscores the need for examining past and future mental time travel in relation to aging and life span development.

Concepts: Time, Psychology, Cognition, Memory, Idea, Ageing, Finding, Autobiographical memory

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Recent research reveals an age-related increase in positive autobiographical memory retrieval using a number of positivity measures, including valence ratings and positive word use. It is currently unclear whether the positivity shift in each of these measures co-occurs, or if age uniquely influences multiple components of autobiographical memory retrieval. The current study examined the correspondence between valence ratings and emotional word use in young and older adults' autobiographical memories. Positive word use in narratives was associated with valence ratings only in young adults' narratives. Older adults' narratives contained a consistent level of positive word use regardless of valence rating, suggesting that positive words and concepts may be chronically accessible to older adults during memory retrieval, regardless of subjective valence. Although a relation between negative word use in narratives and negative valence ratings was apparent in both young and older adults, it was stronger in older adults' narratives. These findings confirm that older adults do vary their word use in accordance with subjective valence, but they do so in a way that is different from young adults. The results also point to a potential dissociation between age-related changes in subjective valence and in positive word use.

Concepts: Psychology, Memory, Word, Ageing, Episodic memory, Amnesia, Autobiographical memory, Concepts

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The reminiscence bump is the disproportionate number of autobiographical memories dating from adolescence and early adulthood. It has often been ascribed to a consolidation of the mature self in the period covered by the bump. Here we stripped away factors relating to the characteristics of autobiographical memories per se, most notably factors that aid in their encoding or retention, by asking students to generate imagined word-cued and imagined ‘most important’ autobiographical memories of a hypothetical, prototypical 70-year-old of their own culture and gender. We compared the distribution of these fictional memories with the distributions of actual word-cued and most important autobiographical memories in a sample of 61-70-year-olds. We found a striking similarity between the temporal distributions of the imagined memories and the actual memories. These results suggest that the reminiscence bump is largely driven by constructive, schematic factors at retrieval, thereby challenging most existing theoretical accounts.

Concepts: Scientific method, Memory, Distribution, Theory, Adult, Autobiographical memory, Distribution of wealth, Adulthood

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The reminiscence bump phenomenon has frequently been reported for the recall of autobiographical memories. The present study complements previous research by examining individual differences in the distribution of word-cued autobiographical memories. More importantly, we introduce predictor variables that might account for individual differences in the mean (location) and the standard deviation (scale) of individual memory distributions. All variables were derived from different theoretical accounts for the reminiscence bump phenomenon. We used a mixed location-scale logitnormal model, to analyse the 4602 autobiographical memories reported by 118 older participants. Results show reliable individual differences in the location and the scale. After controlling for age and gender, individual proportions of first-time experiences and individual proportions of positive memories, as well as the ratings on Openness to new Experiences and Self-Concept Clarity accounted for 29% of individual differences in location and 42% of individual differences in scale of autobiographical memory distributions. Results dovetail with a life-story account for the reminiscence bump which integrates central components of previous accounts.

Concepts: Arithmetic mean, Standard deviation, Statistical terminology, Cauchy distribution, Autobiographical memory, Scale parameter, Location parameter, Location-scale family

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The present study investigated the extent to which people can suppress unwanted autobiographical memories in a memory-detection context involving a mock crime. Participants encoded sensorimotor-rich memories by enacting a lab-based crime (stealing a ring) and received instructions to suppress memory of the crime in order to evade guilt detection in a brain-wave-based concealed-information test. Aftereffects of suppression on automatic memory processes were measured in an autobiographical Implicit Association Test. Results showed that suppression attenuated brain-wave activity (the P300) associated with crime-relevant memory retrieval, which rendered waveforms from innocent and guilty participants indistinguishable. However, the two groups could nevertheless be discriminated via the late-posterior-negative slow wave, which may reflect the need to monitor response conflict arising between voluntary suppression and automatic recognition processes. Finally, extending recent findings that suppression can impair implicit memory processes, we provide novel evidence that suppression reduces automatic cognitive biases often associated with actual autobiographical memories.

Concepts: Psychology, Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Memory, Autobiographical memory, Implicit memory, Suppression, Suppression of dissent