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AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY
• The “ecological movement”
– Neisser’s call:
• Cognition and Reality (1976)
• Memory Observed (1982)
– Banaji & Crowder (1989): Everyday
memory is bankrupt
• Low generalizability?
• Lack of control
• No new “principles”
– “Applied” studies of memory continue
to be popular
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Flashbulb memories
Prospective memory
Eyewitness testimony
Traumatic amnesia
Mnemonic techniques; expertise
Autobiographical memory
Memory for One’s Life Story:
Content and Process
• Biography and Culture
– Biography as historical record
– Biography as narrative
– The “oral history” movement
• AM as a social activity
– Building and sharing our “life story”
• Allende’s Paula (1995)
– Socializing, bonding and constructing
the “self” through recounting our story
• Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (1922)
– The importance of cues
– Ecphory of the past and present
• Memory is life: Rachel the Replicant
– The importance of reminiscence among
the elderly
• Bluck: In search of wisdom
– The adaptive functions of AM: fight,
flight or flirt?
METHODS OF TESTING
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY
• Cuing methods
– Free recall (and problem of clustering)
– Cued recall
• By word or phrase (Galton 1879; Crovitz
1974)
• By date
• By “life period”
– Recognition (and issue of distractors)
• How to verify memory?
– Experimenters keeping diaries
• Linton (75), Wagenaar (86): record events
and contexts
– Subjects keeping diaries
• Brewer (88): random “moments”
– Interviews with family members
– Repeated testing of individuals
STRUCTURE AND PROCESS IN
AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY
• The forgetting function for AM
– Strong recency effect
– Quasilinear or power function?
• Crovitz & Schiffman, 1974
• Wagenaar, 1986
– Content and cuing variables
• Salience and emotionality
• Number and type of cues
Data from Wagenaar, 1986
– Deviations from the curve
• Infantile amnesia and its causes
• The “reminiscence bump” 15-25 yrs
• Content of AM
– AM as composite of episodic
(spatiotemporal context) and semantic
(personal and factual) information
– EM as fleeting, unless “linked” to AM
knowledge and context (Conway, 00)
• EM (e.g., imagery) critical for cuing
– Linked to or part of the “Self” and goal
• Importance of self and goal hierarchy in
Conway’s recent work
– Largely constructive
• 30% new details, 40% change in those
called “distinctive”, over retest
(Anderson & Conway, 94)
– But also largely accurate
• Constraints on errors
• Rehearsal and stabilization of stories
• Organization of AM
– Conway & Rubin’s hierarchical model
• Life Periods around Themes
• General Events and “minihistories”
• Event-specific Knowledge and details
• Retrieval of AM
– Retrieval as cyclic and effortful
• General events the “typical” entry point
via cues (cf. Rosch’s Basic Level?)
• Top two levels accessed “semantically”
• ESK within events accessed
chronologically?
– Free recall at first faster, then slower,
than chronological (Anderson &
Conway 93)
Crovitz & Schiffman, 1974
cue-word recall of AM
Wagenaar 1986
Diary-based cued recall of AM
Wagenaar 1986
AM content and access
Functions are Wagenaar’s ratings at time of event,
With “`1” the lowest in all cases