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Autobiographical memory across the life-span

Autobiographical memory across the life-span

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Autobiographical memory across the life-span

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  1. Autobiographical memory across the life-span • study by M. Linton on autobiographical remembering (1986): • + based on diary with two events per day with separate index cards for each event • + conducted over 14 years • + examination of recall • -> examination of recalled events shows that after approx. 1 year repeated episodes cannot be remembered well individually • -> process results often in recovery of merged general events(see Conway model) • Schacter: blurring of engram due to interference • BUT unique episodes can often still be retained well

  2. Autobiographical memory across the life-span • other important result in study by M. Linton : • + number of cues that can elicit memory for uniqueepisodes becomes smaller as time passes • -> special feeling of sudden remembering when specific cue does elicit seemingly forgotten memory • -> feeling also reflected in ease (response time) in which episodes can be remembered • -> shows that some changes over timeare related toaccessibility (not all changes in availability)

  3. Autobiographical memory across the life-span • implications of finding on changes in accessibility: • different retrieval strategies required to recover more remote memories • -> stronger reliance on reconstructive processes • e.g. what did you do on your last birthday? • vs • what did you do on your birthday 5 years ago?

  4. Is autobiographical recall always accurate? • diary study by Barclay in graduate students with brief descriptions of episodes • + recognition memory test with systematic variations in foils (changes in details of episode vs episode from other person) • -> with increasing delay ( 1 – 30 months) • increase in false recognition responses to episodes changed in detail • ->but other persons’ episodes are hardly ever recognized as own • -> suggests preservation of gist

  5. Is autobiographical recall always accurate? • implications of diary study by Barclay: • “ not a complete fabrication of life events; fundamental integrity to one’s autobiographical recollections” • -> view also supported by research on siblings’ accounts of life events • BUT emotional evaluation and personal meaning of episodes and events may change over the years • e.g. memory for break-up episode • -> creation of life stories

  6. Autobiographical memory across the life-span • what are your most vivid autobiographical memories of unique events? • -> most people report personal events with great emotional significance • -> specific content depends on age at time of retrieval • study on most vivid recollections in university students • (Rubin & Kozin, 1984): • - accidents and injuries • - sports victory • - meeting partner for romantic relationship • study shows that vividness closely linked to • + personal importance • + personal consequentiality • + emotional response at time of event

  7. Effects of mood and emotion on episodic memory • definition of emotion (and mood for present purpose): • + transitorystates of subjective feeling that vary in intensity and quality • e.g., happiness, surprise, sadness, anger etc. • + associated with physiological changes in arousal (e.g. heart rate, blood pressure, breathing) • + related to current situation-specific personal goals and evaluations of people, objects, or events • -> process of appraisal • e.g. anger in teenager who is not allowed to go to party

  8. Effects of mood and emotion on episodic memory Some research questions • General questions: • Do emotion and mood play any role in memory processing? • Do researchers have to consider them in context of memory • experiments? • More specific questions: • Does the mood state a person is in have any effect on encoding of an event? • … on storage / consolidation of an event? • … on retrieval of an event? • Does the match in state between encoding and retrieval matter?

  9. Effects of mood and emotion on encoding • emotional Stroop effect (J. Williams): • name the color in which the word is printed • joyful • wet • round • sad • -> longer RTs for emotional than non-emotional words • -> automatic capture of attention by emotion

  10. Effects of mood and emotion on encoding • attention capture of emotion shows up in weapon focus effect • after traumatic event, emotionally salient info (e.g. gun) can be remembered better than other aspects of event • documented in research on memory for simulated crimes shown on video (Loftus & Burns, 1982) • -> high levels of arousal leads to narrowing of attentional focus on info that’s most relevant for current situation • -> adaptive for immediate survival • -> less beneficial from memory perspective • (e.g. remembering face of perpetrator)

  11. Effects of mood and emotion on encoding • moods and emotions may also guide what kind of info is encoded based on mechanisms other than attentional capture, namely elaborative rehearsal • -> depending on positive vs negative mood, different aspect of episode will be elaborated during encoding • e.g. experience of being at party • encoding based on feeling blue vs feeling happy

  12. Effects of mood and emotion on consolidation • study by Kleinsmith & Kaplan (1964) addressing role of arousal • stimuli at encoding: dance, swim, vomit, rape • increased galvanic skin response (arousal) for words with negative emotional response • at retrieval: free recall

  13. Effects of mood and emotion on consolidation study by Kleinsmith & Kaplan(1964) - higher arousal at encoding leads to poorer immediate but better delayed recall -> arousal affects physiological processes of consolidation

  14. Effects of mood and emotion on memory consolidation: Neuroanatomical basis

  15. Effects of mood and emotion on memory consolidation: Neuroanatomical basis • patients with bilateral damage to amygdala show no arousal effects of emotional stimuli on memory performance • other aspects of memory performance normal • -> amygdala linked with fibres to hippocampus • -> thought to play role in emotional coloring of info during consolidation

  16. Effects of mood and emotion on consolidation • cognitive factors may also play role in beneficial effects of arousal on memory consolidation: • tick-rate hypothesis by Revelle and Loftus (1992) • -> emotional arousal increases rate at which info is encoded per unit time (richer encoding) • -> in short term, difficult to access specific info dueto large amount encoded • ->in long-tem info better integrated with pre- existing knowledge due to richness at encoding

  17. Effects of mood and emotion on consolidation • physiological and cognitive factors play role in beneficial effects of arousal on memory consolidation • -> both factors may also make highly emotional events the most vivid in autobiographical memory

  18. Episodic memoryEffects of mood and emotion on retrieval • effect of mood-congruency: • a given mood at retrieval tends to evoke memories that are consistent with that mood • + Baddeley’s example: • woman suffering from periods of depression recalling visits to swimming pool • -> depending on mood, she remembers unattractiveness in swimsuit or refreshing exercise • + systematic investigation in depressed patients in study by Clark & Teasdale, 1982 • + BUT effect not limited to clinical populations

  19. Effects of mood and emotion: encoding - retrieval interactions • Does the match in mood state between encoding and retrieval matter? • encoding-specificity principle • specific encoding operations determine what is stored, and what is stored determines what retrieval cues are effective in providing access to it

  20. Effects of mood and emotion: encoding - retrieval interactions • early research by Bower with hypnosis-induced mood states suggested effects of mood-state dependency • subsequent findings not always consistent • -> bigger likelihood for mood state dependency… • - when few other retrieval cues available (free recall) • - when mood intense • - when material related to real-life events • - when mood linked consciously to material at encoding (e.g. generate positive word that starts with sm---)

  21. Effects of mood and emotion: encoding - retrieval interactions • mood-congruency: • given mood tends to evoke memories that are consistent with that mood • mood state-dependency • anything experienced in given mood will be recalled more easily if mood is reinstated at retrieval • -> mood-state dependency focuses on mood as context for neutral content • -> mood-congruency refers to emotional content of retrieved info • in general: more research support for mood-congruency

  22. Effects of mood and emotion on memory: Flashbulb memories • vivid, detailed, and persistent memories for moment of reception of surprising salient public events • e.g. assassination of JF Kennedy • fatal accident of Princess Dianne • terrorist attack on September 11 • [compare with memory for other news events from Sept 2001] • Brown & Kulick: flashbulb memories • - ‘now print’ mechanism freezes details of moment (situation) in which we learn about event • - resulting memory representation is more detailed and more accurate than usual

  23. Flashbulb memories • Brown & Kulick: • flashbulb-memory theory based on reports of detailed recollections of reception of JF Kennedy’s assassination • (as compared to RF Kennedy, ML King) • - events took place 1963/68; experiment conducted in 1970s • - questions asked: • + Do you remember the circumstances in which you first heard about…..? • + Where were you? Who told you? How did you feel? • detailed answers taken as evidence for presence of flashbulb memories; corroborated by reported feelings of vividness of memory

  24. Flashbulb memories • important additional finding by Brown & Kulick: • personal consequentiality of event relevant • -> different patterns of recollection in Afro- Americans vs Caucasian Americans for different assassinations • -> more flashbulb memories in former group for ML King and vice versa

  25. Flashbulb memories • methodological deficiency in study by Brown & Kulick: • no verification of accuracy of flashbulb memories • -> problem inherent in retrospective research approach • problem can never be addressed perfectly in research design due to nature of phenomenon (encoding not under control of experimenter) • but if memory is measured soon after event and compared with performance after longer delays accuracy can be further examined

  26. Flashbulb memories • Study by Conway et al. on resignation of British Prime minister M. Thatcher in 1990 • examination of memory for reception of event in 100s of American and UK college students within 2 weeks of event and one year later • most important results • + flashbulb memories more prevalent in UK subjects • (86% vs 29% in UK vs USA) • + include much ‘irrelevant’ detail (unrelated to gist) • + very stable across 1 year • -> supports special status

  27. Flashbulb memories • additional findings from study by Conway et al. on resignation of M. Thatcher in 1990 • most important factors that lead to creation of flashbulb memories: • + importance attached to event • + level of affective response to the news • + to a lesser extent: knowledge / interest

  28. Flashbulb memories: Conway’s model -> no special encoding mechanism required to explain phenomenon (against Brown & Kulick theory)

  29. Flashbulb memories: additional aspects discussed by Schacter • even though more reliable than memory for autobiographical details of everyday events, some forgetting occurs even for flashbulb memories • flashbulb memories often accompanied with high confidence • BUT: confidence no guarantee for high accuracy • flashbulb memories can be erroneous • -> not a photographic preservation • -> reconstructive errors occur even for flashbulb memories • e.g. how did you hear about Challenger disaster? • -> people make source confusions

  30. Are traumatic memories different in terms of cognitive mechanisms? • William James: • ‘An experience may be so exciting emotionally as almost to leave a scar on the cerebral tissue’ -> “burnt-in” • -> may hold for positive and negative experiences • -> most systematically researched for personal events with great negative emotional significance, i.e. trauma • e.g.- collapse of skywalks of Hyatt Regency Hotel in Kansas City 1981 • - natural disasters earthquake / tornado • - combat experience in Vietnam • - Holocaust survivors • - rape victims

  31. Are traumatic memories different in terms of cognitive mechanisms? • memory for personal trauma frequently characterized by • vivid intrusive recollections; • -> very rich in experienced sensory quality (‘flashbacks’) • could reflect vicious cycle of mood-congruent memory retrieval driven by anxiety • difficult to control by individuals who experience them • best coping mechanisms: • - telling story of traumatic event • - bringing into perspective towards ‘rest of life’ • - passing of time

  32. Are traumatic memories different in terms of cognitive mechanisms? • How accurate are they? • intrusive recollections suggest high accuracy and persistence • -> Schacter: good reason to believe that traumatic memories are more accurate than those for non- traumatic events • BUT even traumatic memories are subject to distortion • -> systematic investigation by Lenore Terr: • + research on memory in kids who were part of school bus kidnapping at gun point

  33. Are traumatic memories different in terms of cognitive mechanisms? • Lenore Terr’s findings: • - initial stress of shock can introduce perceptual errors at time of event (related to weapon focus) • - distortions may occur even for initially accurately perceived and remembered details • e.g. man with pillows stuffed into his pants • one of the cognitive processes at work: • + source confusion (own knowledge of event vs report by other children/media/police)