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James Smith
James Smith

Personal Possessions As Cues For Autobiographic...


Four experiments investigated the role of imagery in the recollection of autobiographical memories. The first two experiments examined the effects of word imageability and word frequency on the retrieval of personal memories in a cued autobiographical memory task. They showed that the imageability of cues (but not frequency) mediates specificity in the recall of personal memories. Experiment 2 explored how different imagery modalities (visual, olfactory, tactile, auditory, and motor) influence autobiographical retrieval. Consistent with research on imagery modalities in verbal learning paradigms, visual imageability emerged as the most significant predictor of specificity. Experiments 3 and 4 examined how far a knowledge-based account of imagery effects might account for these effects, using predicability as a measure of semantic richness of a cue. Results found that visual imageability of cues accounted for more variance in specificity of recall than did predicability. The results are explained in terms of the way images represent the most efficient form of summarizing the information that can be used at each stage of the recollection process: setting the retrieval plan, strategic search, and evaluation of candidate episodes.




Personal possessions as cues for autobiographic...



Autobiographical memories are characterised by a range of emotions and emotional reactions. Recent research has demonstrated that differences in emotional valence (positive vs. negative emotion) and arousal (the degree of emotional intensity) differentially influence the retrieved memory narrative. Although the mnemonic effects of valence and arousal have both been heavily studied, it is currently unclear whether the effects of emotional arousal are equivalent for positive and negative autobiographical events. In the current study, multilevel models were used to examine differential effects of emotional valence and arousal on the richness of autobiographical memory retrieval both between and within subjects. Thirty-four young adults were asked to retrieve personal autobiographical memories associated with popular musical cues and to rate the valence, arousal and richness of these events. The multilevel analyses identified independent influences of valence and intensity upon retrieval characteristics at the within- and between-subject levels. In addition, the within-subject interactions between valence and arousal highlighted differential effects of arousal for positive and negative memories. These findings have important implications for future studies of emotion and memory, highlighting the importance of considering both valence and arousal when examining the role emotion plays in the richness of memory representation.


Given the importance of episodic memory in autobiographical memory retrieval, the above-reviewed work would suggest that stress will impair retrieving these experiences, however, findings have been inconsistent12,23,32. Early studies using the Autobiographical Memory Test [AMT33; found that stress impaired the retrieval of personal past experiences such that fewer specific personal memories were recalled in response to retrieval cues33,34; more recent studies, have not replicated this effect35,36. Some studies have found that emotion can influence autobiographical memory retrieval, whereas others have not found evidence for this effect36,37,38.


One possible explanation for these inconsistencies is that these reports have not considered that there are distinct stages of autobiographical memory retrieval39. Autobiographical remembering begins when there is something in our environment that cues the access of a past personal experience. Once a memory is accessed, there are other processes that will support recovering the details of that memory to help build a representation of it in the mind (recollection). Finally, after a past event is recollected, often it must be re-consolidated back into a memory. A Stress could influence one or all of these stages; moreover, it is possible that stress could differentially influence these processing stages. Here we focus on the effects of stress to the access and reconsolidation stages.


First, our finding that stress increases the time to access autobiographical memories to a retrieval cue suggests that stress makes accessing consolidated personal memories less direct and more effortful. This notion is based on reports that fast response times to memory retrieval cues indicate taking a direct route to recalling a past experience (i.e., the memory simply comes to mind) whereas slow response times to a memory retrieval cues represent the use of more generative or effortful memory processes41.


Music can be a potent cue for autobiographical memories in both everyday and clinical settings. Understanding the extent to which music may have privileged access to aspects of our personal histories requires critical comparisons to other types of memories and exploration of how music-evoked autobiographical memories (MEAMs) vary across individuals. We compared the retrieval characteristics, content, and emotions of MEAMs to television-evoked autobiographical memories (TEAMs) in an online sample of 657 participants who were representative of the British adult population on age, gender, income, and education. Each participant reported details of a recent MEAM and a recent TEAM experience. MEAMs exhibited significantly greater episodic reliving, personal significance, and social content than TEAMs, and elicited more positive and intense emotions. The majority of these differences between MEAMs and TEAMs persisted in an analysis of a subset of responses in which the music and television cues were matched on familiarity. Age and gender effects were smaller, and consistent across both MEAMs and TEAMs. These results indicate phenomenological differences in naturally occurring memories cued by music as compared to television that are maintained across adulthood. Findings are discussed in the context of theoretical accounts of autobiographical memory, functions of music, and healthy aging.


For the purposes of the present study we administered an online survey, which allowed us to access a larger and more representative sample of participants than has been attained in any previous MEAMs research. Specifically, we used quota sampling to reach a sample of over 800 participants who were representative of the UK adult population in terms of age, gender, and household income. We asked participants to report details of the most recent experience they could recall when they were listening to a piece of music and it brought back an autobiographical memory. We chose this naturalistic method over presenting pre-selected musical cues, as even studies that have focused on a much narrower demographic (undergraduate students aged 18 to 29 years) have only succeeded in eliciting MEAMs on 30% of trials (Janata et al., 2007); given the much more varied background of our participants, such an approach thus seemed unsuitable for capturing the likely wide range of musical preferences exhibited in the present sample. This method also allowed us to probe a single MEAM experience in more detail than previous studies, while the wider and more personalized range of musical retrieval cues captured via this method may also provide access to a wider range of memories.


The secondary aim of the present work was to investigate effects of age and gender on the aforementioned retrieval characteristics, content, and emotional responses of both MEAMs and TEAMs. In line with previous research from the wider autobiographical memory literature, we predicted that both MEAMs and TEAMs would exhibit a positivity effect (increase in positive emotions and decrease in negative emotions) and increase in vividness ratings with increasing age (e.g., Cuddy et al., 2017; Janssen et al., 2011; Reed et al., 2014), and that women would report more vivid and emotional MEAMs and TEAMs with more social details (e.g., Baron & Bluck, 2009; Belfi et al., 2016; Bohanek & Fivush, 2010; Hayne & MacDonald, 2003; Walls et al., 2001). The other aspects of these analyses were more exploratory. In particular, very few previous studies (with the exception of the gender comparisons in Belfi et al., 2016, and Herz, 1998) have compared the effects of individual differences on MEAMs versus autobiographical memories evoked via other cues in healthy adults. However, such an investigation is important for understanding whether musical cues might exhibit differential access to certain types of memories across adulthood. For instance, research on older adults with AD suggests that music can be a means for spared access to personally significant memories in comparison to other retrieval cues (Baird et al., 2018), which provides impetus for investigating whether similar results might emerge in healthy older adults, despite the decrements in various aspects of memory function that accompany normal aging.


General events are more specific than lifetime periods and encompass single representations of repeated events or a sequence of related events.[4] General events group into clusters with a common theme, so that when one memory of a general event is recalled, it cues the recall of other related events in memory. These clusters of memories often form around the theme of either achieving or failing to achieve personal goals.[4] Clusters of general events that fall under the category of "first-time" achievements or occasions seem to have a particular vividness, such as the first time kissing a romantic partner, or the first time going to a ball game.[8] These memories of goal-attainment pass on important information about the self, such as how easily a skill can be acquired, or an individual's success and failure rates for certain tasks.[4]


Overgeneral AM is common among patients suffering from various mental disorders such as anxiety [15], depression [19], and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [20]. Deficiencies in social problem solving and feelings of increased hopelessness are associated with overgeneral AM [21]. Three hypotheses have been proposed to explain this phenomenon, collectively known as the CaR-FA-X model, and consisting of: the capture and rumination (CaR) hypothesis, functional avoidance (FA) hypothesis, and impaired executive control (X) hypothesis [15]. According to the capture and rumination hypothesis, people suffering from anxiety, PTSD, or depression, show a tendency to dwell upon events and thoughts which may monopolise working memory capacity, limiting the cognitive resources required to construct specific AMs [15]. Patients tend to ruminate about things that concern them. In a cued recall paradigm, they map the cues onto their current concerns rather than elaborate the cues adequately to initiate a search for a specific AM [22]. This mapping of cues and personal concerns results in the retrieval of abstract, self-related knowledge rather than specific AMs [23]. 041b061a72


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