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2010-10-19 19:54:11
cog psych autobiographical memory

Autobiographical Memory
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  1. Autobiographical Memories
    • A specific subset of episodic memories. That is, there are episodic memories that have less bearing on the self (what you ate for breakfast yesterday is not so important for the self system), and then there are episodic memories that have more bearing on the self (the fact that you remember the moment when your boss promoted you is very important for the self system). The ones that do have more bearing on the self are autobiographical memories.
    • Represented at different levels:
    • 1. They include thematic and temporal knowledge that happened during the life time period (first day of school)
    • 2. They include broader, more general events that are relevant for the individual and his purposes (the trip to Norway)
    • 3. They include event-specific knowledge (the weather on my wedding day)
  2. Relation between the Self-Memory System (SMS) and the Autobiographical Memory: Conway & Pleydell-Pearce (2000)
    • The SMS is a conceptual framework in which memory and self are intertwined. Within this network, memory works as a data base system for the self. The self is constantly updating itself, establishing active goals and it consists of various sets of self-images. This is why the self is also called the Working Self. The role of working self is to get access to knowledge from the long-term memory. Autobiographical memory grounds the self; it constrains what the self was, is or will ever be. Due to this constant flux of change, we remember ourselves differently at various points of time, and it allows the self to constantly change. All life events are important for the construction of self.
    • See The Reminiscence Bump
  3. Describe the Reminiscence Bump (Rubin, 1997)
    When asked to retrieve autobiographical memories, individuals show a general patter of recall. They remember nothing during the period of infantile amnesia, and then, across the lifespan, have 2 distinct periods from which they retrieve more memories than other periods: the most recent few years of their lives, and the period from 18-30 years of age. This spike in memories from 18-30 is called the reminiscence bump.
  4. How is the autobiographical memory studied?
    Rubin discovered the reminiscence bump by using the Crovitz technique. It involves asking participants to remember the first autobiographical memory that comes to their mind when they are prompted with a word (e.g. What is the first memory that comes to your mind when you think of the word "book"?). If you ask a person who is 50 yrs old to remember whatever he thinks it is important from his past, he will remember fewer events from childhood, more events from the 18-30 years period, fewer events from the 30-45 years period and more events from the last 5 years. This pattern of remembering is called the reminiscence bump.
  5. Why do we remember such few memories from the first years of our lives?
    One of the reasons for which people have fewer memories from childhood is infantile amnesia. Most people cannot remember anything from when they were younger than 3 years of age.
  6. Why do we remember more the events that happened to us more recently?
    One explanation is the Recency effect
  7. RE: Reminiscence Bump- Why the bump?
    • a) cognitive explanation (novelty; it also explains why immigrants get a second reminiscence bump)
    • b) identity formation coincides with that time (Erickson)
    • c) genetic fitness (that period corresponds to the time when people are in their best biological shape)
    • d) life scripts (most frequently cited life events are in the early 20's and late teens)
  8. Implicit Theories of Stability and Change (Ross- 1989)
    • The idea is that we have implicit theories about respects in which we expect to have remained the same over time, and respects in which we expect to have changed over time. We recall our personal past in a way that is consistent with these implicit theories. People remember their pasts in a manner consistent with the schemas of how they expect themselves to have stayed the same or changed over time. e.g. People misremember their past opinion and memory as being consistent with their current opinion and memory.
    • See Bartlett "War of the Ghosts", Goethals "The Busing Study", "Substance Abuse Study", McFarland & Ross "Dating Experiment", Conway & Ross "Courses on How to Study", "Political Affiliation", Ruble & Brooks-Gunn "The PMS Study", Ross & Wilson "Theory of Temporal Self- Appraisal"
  9. Describe Goethals- The Busing Study
    • Busing was a controversial method to desegregate schools. The idea was to bus white kids to schools in largely black communities, and to bus black kids to schools in largely white communities. Different people had very different opinions about this plan.
    • Groups of people are assembled and are asked to discuss their attitudes about busing. In each group, there is a confederate that either has a strong attitude for busing or against it. Before assembling the groups, the individuals are tested for their attitudes about busing (Time 1 assessment). Individuals' attitudes towards busing are assessed again (Time 2 assessment) a week after the group discussion. It turns out that people remember their attitudes at Time 1 as more consistent with their attitudes from Time 2 than they really were.This represents an implicit theory of stability. People held the theory that their opinion of the plan would have remained stable over time, so they remembered their past opinion as consistent with their present opinion.
  10. Describe the Substance Abuse Study
    Researchers asked high school students about tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use over a 2.5 year period. The results showed that only 15-19% of the variance of the accuracy of memory for the first report was accounted for final report.
  11. Describe the Dating Experiment (McFarland & Ross)
    • Couples were asked what they thought of their present partner.
    • Six months later, they were asked again what they thought of that parter at the time of the initial assessment. By this time, some people had broken-up with the partner, and some were still together.
    • Those who had broken-up remembered themselves as having not liked the partner at the initial assessment. Those who were still with the partner remembered themselves as having like the partner. In truth, those who had broken-up had liked the partner just fine at the initial assessment. They are altering their memory of the past to fit their present conception of their former partner.
    • This too represent as implicit theory of stability. People expect their opinion of their partner to have remained stable over time, so they remember past opinion as being consistent with their current opinion.
  12. Describe Conway & Ross's- Courses on How to Study
    • A number of people took a course on how to study
    • After the course ended, people were asked if their academic performance had improved. They said it had. Actually, in hadn't improved, but had remained the same. People just remembered their grades from before the course as being lower than they really were.
    • This represents an implicit theory of change. People expect their grades to have changed over time as a result of the course, so their memory of their former grades is consistent with this expectation.
  13. Describe the Theory of Temporal Self-Appraisal (Ross & Wilson)
    People hold the view that they continuously improve over time-- higher self-esteem, become more confident, etc. Their appraisal of their past selves, compared to their current selves, reflects this view. They remember themselves as being worse five years ago than they are now, and worse ten years ago than they were five years ago
  14. Describe the PMS Study (Ruble & Brooks-Gunn)
    • Women are asked to keep a diary recording their moods.
    • They are also asked to describe their attitudes about PMS, including how severely they feel they are impacted by it.
    • Then, after the diary study, they are asked to recall how they felt at different points throughout the diary study, including the period during which they were going through PMS.
    • Those who feel they are severely negatively impacted by PMS recalled their mood during PMS as being significantly worse than it actually was.
    • This represents an implicit theory of change. Women who hold the implicit theory that their mood is changed by PMS remember their past in a manner to fit with this theory, even if it means remembering the past inaccurately.
  15. Implicit Theory of Change or Stability:
    Political Affiliation
    • If African Americans are asked what political party they belonged to in the 1920's, the majority would way they were Democrats.
    • However, this can't have been the case. Although in the present day the majority of African Americans are Democrats, the opposite was true in the 20's; then, most were Republican.
    • This represents the implicit theory of stability. Because they are currently Democrats, and because they expect their political affiliation to have remained stable over time, African Americans remember their past political affiliation as being the same as their current affiliations.
  16. What were the 4 methods of the Diary Studies?
    • Linton- wrote down 4-5 events (on separate cards) that happened each day for about 6 years. Periodically Linton would test herself. When Linton tested herself after 18 months, she forgot 1% of the memory cards. After the first 18 months Linton forgot 5-6%/year. After 6 years she forgot about 32% of all memory cards. Linton used recognition to test her memory. Probably the forgetting percentage is higher if you take into account that writing those memories probably made them more distinctive and memorable.
    • Wagenaar- designed a diary study in which Wagenaar tested his own memories for 6 years. At testing Wagenaar used four types of cues: "who, what where, when". The more cues Wagenaar used, the better the recall. When Wagenaar used 1 cue, he remembered 15% of the material. If given 3 cues Wagenaar remembered 60% of the material. The "when" cue was not very effective.
    • Pillemer- asked students to remember events that happened during an academic year. The participants remembered better events that happened at the beginning of the semester and at the end of the semester, because the beginning and end of the semester acted as a landmark. If given an event to date, people would date the event closer to the end or the beginning of the semester rather than on the exact date, and that is because they used landmarks to associate their memories. The memory for the past is centered around landmarks.
    • Bahrick- established that if one remembers something for 6 years it is very likely that one will remember it for the whole life. He thinks that memories which are not forgotten after 6 years are in the permastore. His study is about college students who tried to identify pictures in the yearbook. After 6 years the forgetting becomes asymptotic.
  17. Describe Flashbulb Memories (FBM) as studied by Brown and Kulik
    • Brown and Kulik studied the assassination of JFK and found that flashbulb memories refer to memory for the context in which you learned of the public trauma. Furthermore, they reported that people's memories of the assassination were detailed, vivid, assumed to be accurate, never forgotten. They proposed a model by which flashbulb memories are so vivid because the brain recognizes the situation as very relevant for survival and makes a "photo" of the event so that it can use the current circumstances in other situations. This mechanism helps the organism to survive so it has evolutionary relevance (Brown and Kulik called this mechanism "PRINT NOW"). People are highly confident in their memories for a traumatic event, but are they accurate as Brown and Kulik assumed?
    • No. See Hirst's 9/11 case study and Talarico & Rubin's 9/11 case study
  18. Describe Flashbulb Memories (FBM) as studied by William Hirst et al.
    • 3000 participants from different locations in the US were given questionnaires to assess their reception of the 9/11 events (e.g. who was with you? where were you? what were you doing?, FBM and the facts about the event itself (how many planes? what airlines were they? etc.).
    • The questionnaires were administered at 1 week (S1), 1 year (S2), and 3 years (S3) after the 9/11 events.
    • Retention of FBM: Retention was generally good after 3 years.

    Consistency of FBM across the 3 different testing times was not influenced by emotion, personal loss/inconvenience, residency, media attention, or conversations with other people. That is, people were not more consistent in their recall if they were directly impacted by the events.

    Accuracy of their memory for the 9/11 attacks (Event Memory) was influenced by several factors: Residency (better if lived in NYC), personal loss/inconvenience, Media Attention and Conversation with other people. Such people were more likely to be accurate in their reports. However, they were not accurate in reporting their memory for the emotions felt during the 9/11 attacks.

    Residents of NYC and people who lost somebody or something after the attack were more accurate in their reports of the 9/11 attacks because they were more likely to follow the media more and to talk more about the events with other people. Thus community memory practices influence the level of accuracy of our memories for traumatic events.
  19. Describe Talarico and Rubin's study of Flashbulb Memory
    • Talarico and Rubin compared participant's FBM for 9/11 attacks with their memory for an "important" event that happened to them a few days before the event.
    • There were 4 different times of assessment for both the FBM and the everyday event memory: 1 day, 7 days, 42 days, and 224 days after the event.
    • The results indicated that although the rate of forgetting was similar for both FBM and the everyday event memory, people were more confident in the accuracy of the FBM than in the everyday event memory and their sense of vividness and remembering of the FBM didn't decline as it did for the everyday event memory.