Flashbulb memories (FBMs) are consistent recollections of specific details of the reception context of events. Four theoretical models accounting for FBM formation (Brown & Kulik, 1977; Conway et al., 1994; Er, 2003; Finkenauer et al., 1998) were tested on average 21 and 524 days after the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001 in two groups of participants (US, N=112; non-US, N=727). Structural equation modelling revealed that (1) a revision of Finkenauer et al.'s (1998) model provided the best fit indices in both the US and non-US groups, (2) several relations among latent variables that were predicted by the three other models (Brown & Kulik, 1977; Conway et al., 1994; Er, 2003) were not significant, (3) with respect to Finkenauer et al's model, the "direct path" (from novelty/surprise to FBMs) was found to be significant only for the US group, while the "indirect path" (from emotional states, rehearsal and event-memory to FBMs) was only significant for the non-US group. It is suggested that the specific activation of social identity in the US group can explain these differences.
Retention interval and rehearsal effects on flashbulb and event memory for 11th September 2001 (9/11) were examined. In Experiment 1, college students were assessed three times (Groups 1 and 2) or once (Group 3) over 11 weeks. In Experiment 2, three new groups assessed initially at 23 weeks (Group 4), 1 year (Group 5), or 2 years (Group 6) were compared at 1 year and at 2 years with subsamples of those assessed previously. No effects of retention interval length or rehearsal were found for flashbulb memory, which contained details at each assessment. Event memory, but not consistency, was detrimentally affected by long retention intervals, but improved with rehearsal. Recall was higher for the reception event than for the main events. Also, consistency from 1 day to 11 weeks, but not 1 year to 2 years, was higher for flashbulb memory than for event memory. Event recall was enhanced when respondents conceived of their memory as vivid, frozen, and encompassing a longer period of time. Positive correlations were found for event memory with confidence in accuracy and with rehearsal through discussion at 2 years.
Flashbulb memories are defined as vivid and long-lasting memories for the reception context of an important public event (Brown & Kulik, 1977). They are supposed to be triggered by both emotional reactions to the original event and rehearsal processes (Brown & Kulik, 1977; Finkenauer, Luminet, Gisle, El-Ahmadi, van der Linden, & Philippot, 1998; Neisser & Harsch, 1992). A test-retest design (21 vs 524 days after the event on average) was employed to assess flashbulb memory and event memory for the September 11th attacks and the impact of their emotional and rehearsal predictors in a sample of 985 respondents coming from six countries (i.e., Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Japan, and the USA). Results showed that national membership had a significant impact on event memory, and the emotional and rehearsal variables, but flashbulb memories for the September 11th attacks were found to be high and consistent across different countries. The implications of these findings for the debate about the nature and maintenance of flashbulb memories are discussed.
We examined and compared the predictors of autobiographical memory (AM) consistency and event memory accuracy across two publicly documented yet disparate public events: the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States on January 20th 2009, and the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549, off the coast of Manhattan, on January 15th 2009. We tracked autobiographical and event memories for both events, with assessments taking place within 2½ weeks of both events (Survey 1), and again between 3½ and 4 months after both events (Survey 2). In a series of stepwise regressions we found that the psychological variables of recalled emotional intensity and personal importance/centrality predicted AM consistency and event memory accuracy for the inauguration. Conversely, the rehearsal variables of covert rehearsal and media attention predicted, respectively, AM consistency and event memory accuracy for the plane landing. We conclude from these findings that different factors may underlie autobiographical and event memory for personally and culturally significant events (e.g., the inauguration), relative to noteworthy, yet less culturally significant, events (e.g., the plane landing).
Testimonies from 488 children given to the priests of the parish of Rättvik during a preliminary investigation of a Swedish witch panic in 1670-71 are examined in relation to records from parish catechetical meetings held in 1671. The result implies that children who knew and understood at least parts of Luther's catechism were less liable to have falsely alleged that they had been kidnapped by female satanists during the witch panic of the previous year. It is suggested that these effects were caused by differences in cognitive, social, and emotional resources among these children as compared to those who were unable to learn and understand any parts of Luther's catechism.
This study investigated how visitors' psychological and behavioural factors, identified in the literature, shaped their vivid long-term memories of their experiences of the Japan World Exposition, Osaka, 1970 (Expo '70) as a context. In this study, 112 memory episodes were identified from the long-term memories of 48 participants; they were rated in terms of their memory vividness and on a set of factors including affect, agenda fulfilment, intentionality, and rehearsal. The influence of these factors on the vividness of episodic and/or autobiographic memories of experiences that occurred 34 years ago was examined in two stages. First, the relationship between memory vividness and individual factors was investigated separately. Second, the relationship between memory vividness and all factors was examined through a multiple regression analysis, and the relative importance of these factors on memory vividness identified. Stage one analysis showed that all factors except intentionality were related to memory vividness in individual analyses, and curvilinear relationships between memory vividness and the factors found. Stage two analysis, in which all factors were included in a multiple regression analysis, found that rehearsal was positively related to memory vividness and all other factors not significant in the presence of rehearsal.
Cohen, Poldrack, and Eichenbaum (1997; hereafter CPE) offer an account of the nature of individual items in memory and how they relate to one another. They argue that there are two separate memory systems, procedural and declarative (Cohen & Eichenbaum, 1993; Cohen & Squire, 1980). These systems differ in their neuroanatomic substrates, in their operating characteristics, and in the nature of the representations they use. CPE argue that representations in the declarative memory system are compositional, meaning that declarative representations may be composed of other declarative representations. Declarative memories are also flexible, meaning they can be accessed in contexts that differ from those in which they were encoded. Procedural memories, on the other hand, are neither compositional nor flexible. I will argue that there is not sufficient reason to argue that procedural and declarative memories have these distinct characteristics. Both procedural and declarative memories are arguably compositional, and both can appear flexible or inflexible, depending on testing conditions.
In two studies, participants studied 30 lists of 50 words and were tested on 30 lists of 100 words. Item-level multiple regression analyses were conducted on hits, false alarms, hits minus false alarms, d', and C. The predictor variables were objective frequency, subjective frequency, imageability, orthographic similarity, phonological similarity, phonological-to-orthographic N (PON), age of acquisition (AoA), and word length. The regression equations accounted for 45.9% of the variance in hit rates, 14.9% of the variance in false alarm rates, and 29.2% of the variance in hits minus false alarms. Other noteworthy results were that: (a) hit rates positively correlated with false alarms, (b) objective frequency negatively correlated with both hit rates and false alarm rates, (c) AoA positively correlated with hit rates and negatively correlated with false alarm rates, (d) length negatively correlated with hit rates and positively correlated with false alarm rates, (e) orthographic uniqueness was positively correlated with hit rates and negatively correlated with false alarms, (f) PON positively correlated with false alarm rates, (g) imageability produced the typical mirror pattern, and (h) imageability and length were the strongest predictors of performance. Results were largely compatible with predictions made by single- and dual-process theories of recognition memory.
From a meta-analysis of recognition experiments using the remember-know-guess paradigm, Gardiner, Ramponi, and Richardson-Klavehn (2002) reported two findings that they viewed as evidence against the one-dimensional model for that paradigm: (1) Memory strength increased when know responses were added to remember responses, decreasing when guess responses were also included. (2) The accuracy of guess responses was correlated with the location of the old-new criterion in the one-dimensional model for the paradigm, implying that guesses were influenced by decision processes. We question both findings. The first result is contradicted by a signal-detection (SDT) analysis, which shows that both know and guess responses reduced estimated memory strength. The discrepancy results from the properties of A', the measure of accuracy used by Gardiner et al., which we argue is flawed. The second result follows directly from the one-dimensional model, in which accuracy and response criteria are fixed. The authors' reasons for rejecting the one-dimensional model are thus not persuasive, but it can nonetheless be rejected because ROC curves implied by the data are inconsistent with ROCs derived from ratings experiments. A two-dimensional SDT model (Rotello, Macmillan, & Reeder, 2004) accounts for both sets of data. The analysis illustrates the importance of models in interpreting remember--know data.
The present experiment investigated whether increased media exposure could lead to an increase in memory distortions regarding a traumatic public event: the explosion of the No. 30 bus in Tavistock Square, London on 7 July 2005. A total of 150 Swedish and 150 UK participants completed a series of questionnaires about their memory of either (i) the aftermath of the explosion, (ii) a non-existent computerised reconstruction of the moment of the explosion, or (iii) non-existent closed circuit television footage of the moment of the explosion. In line with the availability heuristic, U.K. participants were more likely than Swedish participants to claim to have seen all three types of footage. Furthermore, a subsample of U.K. participants who appeared to have developed false "memories" of seeing the No. 30 bus explode scored significantly higher on measures of dissociation and fantasy proneness than participants who did not develop false "memories". This experiment provides further support for the role of imaginative processes in the development of false memories.
In a recent paper, Sakaki (2007) proposed that Klein and Loftus's conclusion that semantic and episodic trait self-knowledge are functionally independent (e.g., Klein, Babey, & Sherman, 1997; Klein & Loftus, 1993a; Klein, Loftus, Trafton, & Fuhrman, 1992b) was based on questionable assumptions and not supported by the available evidence. In this paper we show that Sakaki (2007) has misinterpreted our position on the independence of self-knowledge, omitted mention of large portions of the relevant research at odds with her contention, and conducted her studies with procedures we explicitly warned against due to interpretive ambiguities associated with their use.
Prior studies have convincingly demonstrated that survival-related processing of information enhances its subsequent retention. This phenomenon, known as the survival recall advantage, generalises to other stimuli, memory domains, and research populations, thereby underscoring its reliability. As previous studies used only short retention intervals between survival processing and the memory test, an important yet hitherto unanswered issue is whether this effect persists over time. The present experiment therefore examined whether survival processing also produces mnemonic benefits when retention is tested after longer delay periods. Participants (N =81) rated the relevance of words according to a survival and a moving scenario, and were then randomly assigned to the typical immediate (3-minute delay) retention test condition or conditions that included a 24- or 48-hour interval between survival processing and memory testing. In each of these conditions survival processing led to higher surprise free recall and recognition rates than processing words according to the moving scenario. Thus this study provides evidence that illustrates the longevity of survival processing advantages on memory performance.
Although the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT) is widely used its psychometric properties have rarely been investigated. This paper utilises data gathered from a 10-item written version of the AMT, completed by 5792 adolescents participating in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, to examine the psychometric properties of the measure. The results show that the scale derived from responses to the AMT operates well over a wide range of scores, consistent with the aim of deriving a continuous measure of over-general memory. There was strong evidence of group differences in terms of gender, low negative mood, and IQ, and these were in agreement when comparing an item response theory (IRT) approach with that based on a sum score. One advantage of the IRT model is the ability to assess and consequently allow for differential item functioning. This additional analysis showed evidence of response bias for both gender and mood, resulting in attenuation in the mean differences in AMT across these groups. Implications of the findings for the use of the AMT measure in different samples are discussed.
Recent cognitive models suggest that mental imagery can help us understand the maintenance of anxiety disorders (e.g., de Silva, 1986; Hackmann, Surawy, & Clark, 1998). However, imagery is relatively unexplored within agoraphobia. Such images are also thought to be useful in uncovering memories that occurred around the onset of a disorder (Hackmann, Clark, & McManus, 2000). A total of 20 patients with agoraphobia and 20 matched controls took part in this investigation. Participants described any recurrent images they experienced in agoraphobic situations, and also any associated memories. All patients with agoraphobia (but no control participants) reported having distinct recurrent images in "agoraphobic situations". Most images involved several sensory modalities and in the majority of cases appeared to be linked with unpleasant memories of events experienced many years previously. While these exploratory findings require replication, potential treatment implications are discussed.
Patients, when admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU), have one thing in common: their illness is life-threatening. Patients may remain on ICU in a critical condition, needing support with their breathing, circulation, and/or kidneys for varying lengths of time, from days to weeks. During that time the patients will receive sedative and analgesic drugs to ensure compliance with artificial ventilation. Patients recovering from critical illness frequently have little or no recall of their period in ICU, or remember nightmare, hallucinations, or paranoid delusions. The nature, extent and reason for these difficulties, have been under-reported and consequently our purpose was to conduct a review of memory problems experienced by ICU patients. A systematic literature review of computer databases (Medline, PsycLit, and CINAHL) identified 25 relevant papers. In addition, other relevant articles were obtained, citation lists and associated articles retrieved. Due to lack of research on processes underlying memory problems in ICU patients all articles that introduced an insight into possible mechanisms were included in the review. There seem to be two possible processes contributing to memory problems in ICU patients. First the illness and treatment may have a general dampening effect on memory. Delirium and sleep disturbance are both common in ICU patients. Delirium can result in a profound amnesia for the period of confusion. Sleep deprivation exacerbates the confusional state. Slow wave sleep is important for the consolidation of episodic memories. Treatment administered to patients in ICU can have effects on memory. Opiates, benzodiazepines, sedative drugs such as propofol, adrenaline, and corticosteroids can all influence memory. In addition, the withdrawal of drugs, such as benzodiazepines, can cause profound withdrawal reactions, which may contribute to delirium. Second, we hypothesise that there is a process that affects memory negatively for external events but enhances memory for internal events. The physical constraints and social isolation experienced by ICU patients and the life-threatening nature of the illness may increase the experience of hypnagogic hallucinations. Attentional shift during hypnagogic images from external stimuli to internally generated images would explain why ICU patients have such poor recall of external ICU events, but can clearly remember hallucinations and nightmares. Patients describe these memories as being very vivid and this is explored in terms of flashbulb memory formation. The absence of memories for real events on ICU can result in ICU patients remembering paranoid delusions of staff trying to kill them, with little information to reject these vivid memories as unreal. This has implications for patients' future psychological health.
Centenarians provided autobiographical memories to either a request for a life narrative or a request to produce autobiographical memories to cue words. Both methods produced distributions with childhood-amnesia, reminiscence-bump, and recency components. The life-narrative method produced relatively more bump memories at the expense of recent memories. The life-narrative distributions were similar to those obtained from 80-year-old adults without clinical symptoms and from 80-year-old Alzheimer's dementia and depression patients, except that the centenarians had an additional 20-year period of relatively low recall between the bump and recency components. The centenarians produced more emotionally neutral memories than the other three groups and produced fewer and less detailed memories than the non-clinical 80-year-old sample.
Using prospective longitudinal data from 198 very preterm and 70 full term children, this study characterised the memory and learning abilities of very preterm children at 7 years of age in both verbal and visual domains. The relationship between the extent of brain abnormalities on neonatal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and memory and learning outcomes at 7 years of age in very preterm children was also investigated. Neonatal MRI scans were qualitatively assessed for global, white-matter, cortical grey-matter, deep grey-matter, and cerebellar abnormalities. Very preterm children performed less well on measures of immediate memory, working memory, long-term memory, and learning compared with term-born controls. Neonatal brain abnormalities, and in particular deep grey-matter abnormality, were associated with poorer memory and learning performance at 7 years in very preterm children. Findings support the importance of cerebral neonatal pathology for predicting later memory and learning function.
This paper explores whether shame memories have a distinct impact on emotional difficulties and psychopathology that goes beyond their negative emotional valence. Study 1 (N=292) investigates the contribution of centrality of shame memory, in comparison to the centrality of fear and sadness memories, to explain the memory's traumatic impact, shame, depression, anxiety, stress, paranoid, and dissociative symptoms. Study 2 (N=192) explores the impact of shame traumatic memory on shame and depression, anxiety, and stress symptoms, in comparison to fear and sadness traumatic memories. Both studies used undergraduate student samples. Results show that shame memories' centrality and traumatic features made an independent contribution to current external and internal shame and distinct psychopathological symptoms, after controlling for the effect of fear and sadness, centrality, and traumatic qualities. Moreover, shame memories' centrality and traumatic features were the best global predictors of external and internal shame and depressive symptoms. Centrality of shame memories was also the only significant predictor of paranoid ideation and dissociation. These results offer novel perspectives on the nature of shame and its relation to psychopathology, emphasising the distinct role of shame memories in human functioning and suffering, which goes above and beyond its negative emotional valence.
Both positive and negative testing effects have been demonstrated with a variety of materials and paradigms (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006b). The present series of experiments replicate and extend the research of Roediger and Marsh (2005) with the addition of a "none-of-the-above" response option. Participants (n=32 in both experiments) read a set of passages, took an initial multiple-choice test, completed a filler task, and then completed a final cued-recall test (Experiment 1) or multiple-choice test (Experiment 2). Questions were manipulated on the initial multiple-choice test by adding a "none-of-the-above" response alternative (choice "E") that was incorrect ("E" Incorrect) or correct ("E" Correct). The results from both experiments demonstrated that the positive testing effect was negated when the "none-of-the-above" alternative was the correct response on the initial multiple-choice test, but was still present when the "none-of-the-above" alternative was an incorrect response.
Spatial knowledge, necessary for efficient navigation, comprises route knowledge (memory of the landmarks along a route) and survey knowledge (map-like). Available data on the retention in humans of spatial knowledge show that this does not decline systematically over months or years. Here, two groups of participants elaborated route and survey knowledge during navigation in a complex virtual environment before performing route and survey tasks. Both groups were tested 5 minutes after learning and 3 months later, while one group was also tested 1 week and 1 month later (repeated testing). Performance was similar in both groups on the first testing session, remained stable in the repeated tested group, but decreased in the non-repeated tested group, especially on route tasks. These results are the first to reveal a substantial and selective decline of spatial knowledge, occurring only if there is no possibility of reactivating knowledge along repeated testing.
Two experiments are reported in which, after attempting to identify a briefly flashed, masked test word, participants were asked to rate the likelihood that it had been presented in an earlier study list. Even when people were unable to identify such items, they demonstrated an ability to discriminate between those that were studied and those that were not studied; ratings given to studied items were significantly higher than ratings given to nonstudied items. This effect does not appear to be a data-driven phenomenon. In Experiment 1 it was found when the presentation modality was changed from study to test. In Experiment 2 false memory for unidentified items that were related to studied items was shown.
Misinformation from another witness has been shown to impair eyewitness reports, but little is known about how it may influence eyewitness identification. In Experiment 1, adult pairs comprising one participant and one experimental confederate viewed a video clip of a staged theft. Half of the participants were then misinformed by the confederate that the thief's accomplice had blue eyes (in fact, they were brown). Next, individual participants described the accomplice and completed a target-absent photographic line-up task comprising blue-eyed members. Misinformed participants were several times more likely than controls to describe the accomplice as having blue eyes, and twice as likely to identify someone from the line-up. In Experiment 2, when line-up members' eye colour was digitally altered from blue to brown, the line-up effect disappeared, suggesting that the increase in identifications in Experiment 1 was not a generalised increase in willingness to choose from the line-up. In Experiment 3, we discounted the possibility that discussion alone could account for the line-up misinformation effect, by subjecting all participants to co-witness discussion.
The narration of drinking experiences plays a central role in many alcohol rehabilitation programmes, yet few researchers have considered whether alcoholics' stories about such experiences relate to their psychological adjustment. Here we examine the extent to which drinking stories of abstinent alcoholics reflect autobiographical reasoning processes denoting self-change and self-stability, and whether these processes are associated with adjustment. Participants who revealed a positive self-change in their narratives about drinking demonstrated higher levels of self-esteem, authentic pride, and mental health compared to those who did not. In contrast, those who implied a sense of self-stability in their narratives demonstrated higher levels of hubristic pride and aggression, and poorer mental health. These results suggest that narrating positive self-change in the wake of substance abuse may underlie psychological adjustment, whereas establishing self-stability in these experiences may impede adjustment. More broadly, these findings underscore the importance of recognising the multi-dimensional nature of autobiographical reasoning.
Drug-related memories persist long into abstinence and are potent elicitors of drug craving and relapse. We report two experiments examining whether heroin-dependent individuals are impaired in intentionally suppressing drug-related memories. Experiment 1 adopted the Item paradigm where addicts and healthy controls were presented with a list of words each followed by a remember or forget cue. Experiment 2 adopted the List paradigm where they studied one list of items and were then split into a remember group and a forget group. Both groups studied a second list, except that the forget group was told to forget the first list. Compared with controls, addicts showed a reduced directed forgetting effect in the Item method and a total absence of one measure of directed forgetting in the List method (List 2 benefits). Results indicate that heroin addicts are impaired in directed forgetting and that the deficits are likely associated with memory encoding as opposed to retrieval. Possible problems include reduced ability in actively suppressing/stopping encoding of irrelevant information into memory or inability in changing/resetting encoding strategies. In neither experiment did the addicts show any differential directed forgetting effects between drug-related words and neutral words, indicating the generic nature of their intentional forgetting deficits.
Although concrete nouns are generally agreed to have shared core conceptual representations across languages in bilinguals, it has been proposed that abstract nouns have separate representations or share fewer semantic components. Conceptual repetition priming methodology was used to evaluate whether translation equivalents of abstract nouns have shared conceptual representations and compare the degree of conceptual overlap for concrete and abstract nouns. Here 72 Spanish-English bilinguals made concrete-abstract decisions on English and Spanish nouns. Both concrete and abstract nouns elicited substantial between-language priming and these effects were of equivalent size, indicating that translation equivalents of both concrete and abstract nouns have shared conceptual representations and that abstract words do not share fewer components. The between-language priming effects and their attenuation relative to within-language priming indicate that the within-language effect is based on facilitation of both word comprehension and semantic decision processes.
The acquisition and flexible expression of complex relations is often attributed to declarative memory processes. The extent to which such tasks may be done implicitly has not been sufficiently explored. We report that analogical or transfer processes may be accomplished implicitly. Our analogy task requires acquisition of a transverse patterning set, and then tests for transfer on an unrelated set. Participants learn the relations A>B (given a choice between A and B choose A) and B>C and the unrelated set X>Y and Y>Z. Only the experimental group was trained on the transverse pair C>A. At test all trials are unreinforced: A?B, B?C, A?C, X?Y, Y?Z, X?Z. Analogy was observed when the experimental group chose Z>X at greater frequency than controls who uniformly chose X>Z. Analogy occurred with or without awareness of the transfer. The capacity to transfer relations to an analogous set demonstrates a level of flexibility and abstraction not generally thought to be possible for implicit processes.
Two experiments are presented that investigate the effects of dynamic visual noise (DVN) on memory for concrete and abstract words. Memory for concrete words is typically superior to that of abstract words and is referred to as the concreteness effect. DVN is a procedure that has been demonstrated to interfere selectively with visual working memory and the generation of images from long-term memory. It was reasoned that if concreteness effects arise because of the ability of the latter to activate visual representations, then DVN should selectively impair memory for concrete words. Experiment 1 found DVN to selectively reduce free recall of concrete words. Experiment 2 investigated recognition memory and found DVN to reduce memory accuracy and remember responses, while increasing know responses to concrete words.
We describe three patients exhibiting an acute reversible amnesia characterised by an impaired recollection of past events with preserved anterograde memory, thus consistent with a focal retrograde amnesia (FRA). This occurred after variable events: state of fugue, road accident, post-traumatic headache. Retrograde amnesia affected autobiographical memory so severely as to cover all of the patients' lives and to erase knowledge of their own identity. The retrieval of public events was variably affected, ranging from normality to severe impairment. No lesions were found on neuroimaging, and neurophysiological findings were unimpressive. FRA subsided in a few days, leaving a gap for the onset. The hypothesis of a psychogenic amnesia is considered, but overcoming the organic/psychogenic dichotomy the episodes appear as examples of "functional" memory inhibition, potentially triggered by different conditions, including events classifiable as psychic trauma. The clinical and neuropsychological traits of functional FRA are discussed. According to a current theory of autobiographical memory, the memory profile may be explained by a lost access to abstract autobiographical knowledge. Given some analogies with the more common transient global amnesia, a mechanism of spreading depression may also be hypothesised for functional FRA.
This study examined individual differences in the ability to recognise involuntary autobiographical memories. We hypothesised that individuals may not always recognise involuntary memories which are cued by abstract experiences (e.g., thoughts or language), while they are better able to recognise those which are cued by concrete sensory/perpetual experiences. We hypothesised that individuals without formal training in psychology would be more prone to these recognition failures than individuals with training in psychology. We tested the hypothesis by comparing the results of general first-year undergraduate students, graduate students in psychology and graduates students in other disciplines after each had participated in a two-week diary study of their naturally occurring involuntary memories. The results showed undergraduate participants and non-psychology graduate participants reporting fewer involuntary memories being triggered by abstract cues than the graduate psychology participants, while the groups did not differ in the report of memories triggered by sensory/perpetual cues. The implications of the findings are discussed.
This study compared life story memories of emerging adults and early adolescents to other autobiographical memories. Participants described three scenes of their respective life stories, a high point, low point, and turning point narrative, and described the connections between them in a fourth narrative. Participants also related four autobiographical narratives from corresponding time periods for comparison. Narratives were analysed for two measures of causal coherence, narrative complexity and meaning making, and for thematic coherence. Life story narratives contained more self-related lessons and insights and greater recognition of complexity than non-life-story narratives, but these differences were confined to narratives of turning points and connections between events. Thematic connections between narratives were more abstract and self-related in life story narratives. Emerging adults' narratives, when compared to those of early adolescents, showed more evidence of self-related abstract thinking and recognition of multiple dimensions. Findings indicate consistent ways in which life story memories differ from other autobiographic memories, and show evidence of development in adolescence.
One experiment investigated the effects of distortion and multiple prime repetition (super-repetition) on repetition priming using divided-visual-field word identification at test and mixed-case words (e.g., goAT). The experiment measured form-specificity (the effect of matching lettercase at study and test) for two non-conceptual study tasks. For an ideal typeface, super-repetition increased form-independent priming leaving form-specificity constant. The opposite pattern was found for a distorted typeface; super-repetition increased form-specificity, leaving form-independent priming constant. These priming effects did not depend on the study task or test hemifield for either typeface. An additional finding was that only the ideal typeface showed the usual advantage of right hemifield presentation. These results demonstrate that super-repetition produced abstraction for the ideal typeface and perceptual individuation for the distorted typeface; abstraction and perceptual individuation dissociated. We suggest that there is a fundamental duality between perceptual individuation and abstraction consistent with Tulving's (1984) distinction between episodic and semantic memory. This could reflect a duality of system or process.
We asked 1004 undergraduates to estimate both the probability that they would enter therapy and the probability that they experienced but could not remember incidents of potentially life-threatening childhood traumas or physical and sexual abuse. We found a linear relation between the expectation of entering therapy and the belief that one had, but cannot now remember, childhood trauma and abuse. Thus individuals who are prone to seek psychotherapy are also prone to accept a suggested memory of childhood trauma or abuse as fitting their expectations. In multiple regressions predicting the probability of forgotten memories of childhood traumas and abuse, the expectation of entering therapy remained as a substantial predictor when self-report measures of mood, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder symptom severity, and trauma exposure were included.
Two studies were conducted to explore the conditions that elicit autobiographical memory problems in abuse victims and the mechanism that underlie them. In Study 1 older adolescents (n=80) with and without self-reported abuse histories completed a modified version of the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT-U); participants were given an unlimited amount of time to provide specific memories in response to cue words. Participants also completed measures of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), working memory, and attentional biases. This study found that abuse severity and PTSD symptoms were positively related to memory specificity on the AMT-U. In Study 2 older adolescents (n=78) with and without self-reported abuse histories completed the traditional (timed) version of the AMT. Participants also completed measures of working memory, attentional biases, self-reported coping, and psychopathological symptoms (i.e., depression and PTSD). In this study the opposite relationship was observed, such that abuse severity was related to poorer memory specificity, but this relationship was explained by disengagement coping and PTSD symptoms. This work suggests that poor memory specificity may represent a form of avoidance, but the application of avoidant mechanisms depends on the remembering context.
This study explored the connections between multiple measures of meaning making and psychological adjustment in people with and without histories of abuse. Young adults (n = 177), recollected their three most stressful memories and rated them on importance and emotional and sensory qualities. We analysed the narratives for lexical markers of meaning making and explicit references to meaning or meaning-making attempts. There was little overlap between self-reported qualities and narrative content, and they were differentially predictive of psychological symptoms and transient emotional reactions. Consistent with the PTSD literature, more salient self-report memory characteristics (e.g., visceral emotions), and negative emotion and sensation terms predicted more symptoms. The narrative indices provided the best prediction to psychological adjustment, with several meaning indices (e.g., references to positive impact) predicting reduced symptoms, particularly for the Abuse group. Contrary to meaning-making models, resolutions predicted more symptoms, suggesting that aversive feelings during memory telling may trigger on-the-spot sense making to cope with distress.
In this paper we describe a custody case that centred on allegations of child sexual abuse. A pair of preschool-aged sisters accused their biological father of various sexual acts, though their allegations were made under problematic conditions and were contradicted by other statements they made. In an affidavit written by one of us (MB), we describe the relevant memory development research in the course of presenting the court with a scientific analysis. We find compelling evidence of multiple risk factors in the way the daughters' recollections were elicited. Although the "ultimate question" of guilt is beyond our purview, our identification of risks was instrumental in the legal system's decision that the children's allegations were not valid. We put this analysis forward as an example of evidence-based testimony in which scientific findings from the memory literature can be used to frame an expert's analysis.
Recent reviews of child sexual abuse (CSA) disclosure indicate that many victims delay disclosing abuse for some period of time (e.g., London, Bruck, Ceci, & Shuman, 2005). During this period of non-disclosure, CSA victims may avoid thinking about or discussing their abuse experiences. Some scholars argue that this may lead to a directed forgetting (DF) effect, whereby later recall of the unrehearsed memories becomes more difficult (e.g., M. A. Epstein & Bottoms, 2002). This paper reviews the DF literature and discusses the potential contribution of DF to silence. The review begins with a description of the basic DF protocol used, discusses underlying mechanisms thought to be responsible for the DF effect, and then examines applications of the DF protocol to memory for emotion-laden word lists and autobiographical events. Overall, the applied studies demonstrate that DF effects generalise beyond memory for innocuous word lists; however, we describe several important avenues of research that require further exploration. Most noteworthy, and particularly relevant to the common application of DF to memory for CSA, are those studies that examine the influence of DF on children's autobiographical memory.
Methods used during forensic interviews with children are driven by beliefs about how children recall and report child sexual abuse (CSA) to others. Summit (198372.
Summit , R. C. 1983. The child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome. Child Abuse & Neglect, 7: 177–193. [CrossRef], [PubMed]View all references) proposed a theory (Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome) contending that, due to the specific traumatic characteristics of CSA, children will often delay disclosing abuse or altogether fail to disclose during childhood, deny abuse when asked, and often recant abuse allegations. His theory has had a tremendous impact on the field of CSA forensic evaluations, despite its dearth of empirical support. In this paper, we review and critique the contemporary literature from two main sources: retrospective accounts from adults reporting CSA experiences and studies of children undergoing forensic evaluation for CSA. We conclude that data support the notion that children often delay abuse disclosure, but that among valid abuse cases undergoing forensic evaluation, denial and recantation are not common. Methodological issues and implications for forensic interviewers are discussed.
Recent changes to the law in New Zealand have led to a marked increase in experts being called to give evidence in cases of alleged child sexual abuse. Here we outline some of the common misconceptions that are held by expert witnesses in these cases and we review research on patterns of abuse disclosure and retraction, symptoms of abuse, external influences on children's reports, and experts' ability to distinguish true from false reports. We also consider what experts can say about memory that has relevance for these cases. We conclude that many long-held notions of child sexual abuse and children's testimony that make their way into our courtrooms are not supported by empirical research, raising questions about who is-and who is not-qualified to act as an expert witness.
There are two types of recovered memories: those that gradually return in recovered memory therapy and those that are spontaneously recovered outside the context of therapy. In the current study, we employed a thought suppression paradigm, with autobiographical experiences as target thoughts, to test whether individuals reporting spontaneously recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) are more adept at suppressing positive and anxious autobiographical thoughts, relative to individuals reporting CSA memories recovered in therapy, relative to individuals with continuous abuse memories, and relative to controls reporting no history of abuse. Results showed that people reporting spontaneously recovered memories are superior in suppressing anxious autobiographical thoughts, both in the short term and long term (7 days). Our findings may partly explain why people with spontaneous CSA memories have the subjective impression that they have "repressed" their CSA memories for many years.
Out of a large number of university students who responded to a questionnaire about childhood sexual abuse (CSA), approximately a quarter reported that they had an experience in childhood that qualified. The majority of students who reported a CSA experience refused, elsewhere in the questionnaire, to classify themselves as 'sexually abused'. Moreover, those who claimed lack of understanding of the event at the time it occurred also reported that they thought about the event less often in the intervening years and that they conceivably would have not remembered the event even if asked directly about it. Lack of understanding at the time of encoding leads to less reported memory. These observations are discussed in terms of possible mechanisms for how genuine sexual abuse experiences might be temporarily forgotten--even for extended periods--and subsequently remembered.
The idea that involuntary memory retrieval might occur during voluntary memory retrieval can be traced back to Ebbinghaus (1885/1964). However, methodological challenges have stood in the way of testing this idea. Recent diary studies of naturally occurring involuntary memories have provided insights into how this idea could be tested (Berntsen, 1998; Mace, 2005b, 2006). These studies have shown that the contents of an involuntary memory sometimes trigger additional involuntary memories, a process called chaining. It was hypothesised that chaining should also occur on autobiographical memory tasks, and this was tested in the present study by asking participants in an autobiographical memory task to report the presence of involuntary memories while they were performing the task. The results showed that involuntary memories did occur when participants were recalling the past. The results also showed involuntary memories dissociating from voluntary memories on two independent measures, thereby enhancing the credibility of the results.
In this study, we investigated subjects' ability to retrieve information about a familiar person's facial appearance in response to seeing their name. Each famous name was associated with one of four occupations (sport, music, politics, and acting) and one of four distinctive facial features (beard, long hair, glasses, baldness). Subjects were asked to state which occupation, and which facial feature was associated with each name. The most important finding was that subjects were generally only able to recall the distinctive facial feature that a person possessed if they were also able to recall their occupation. Recall of the person's occupation, by contrast, was not contingent on remembering the person's facial appearance. These results suggest that there are no direct links between the representation of a person's name in memory and visual information about their facial appearance. The link appears to be indirect, and to be mediated by non-visual semantic information about the person, such as their occupation. This conclusion was also supported by an examination of the effects of biographical cues on subjects' ability to recall facial information that they had previously failed to recall. In a second experiment, subjects were presented with biographical details about famous people, and were asked to retrieve information about their face and name. Retrieval of facial information did not appear to be contingent on recall of the name, nor did recall of the name appear to be contingent on retrieval of facial information. On the basis of the results, an hierarchical model of name recognition is presented which is analogous to current models of face recognition (e.g. Bruce & Young, 1986).
Involuntary autobiographical memories recorded in a diary study are compared to voluntary autobiographical memories retrieved in response to verbal cues in a laboratory. The verbal cues were generated to be comparable to the cues that were found to elicit the involuntary memories. The findings demonstrate that voluntary and involuntary retrieval may access different samples of autobiographical memories. The voluntary memories were (1) less specific, (2) more frequently rehearsed, and (3) less emotionally positive than the involuntary memories. A reanalysis of the diary study examined conditions of involuntary retrieval. The memories occurred most frequently when attention was diffuse. They were typically triggered by environmental cues matching central features of the remembered event. The findings are discussed in relation to current models of autobiographical memory.
A single case study is reported of a global aphasic patient, JM, with impaired access to semantic information which was particularly severe for the class of proper names. JM's ability to perform matching tasks with printed words and pictures to auditory words deteriorated when items were repeated, especially when the response-stimulus interval was short. Performance was also inconsistent across items. The effect of repeated testing on items generalised to other, previously untested members of the same category. Despite this, JM was able to access general semantic information about stimuli from the affected categories (e.g. to categorise boys' and girls' names), and showed good ability to access an input lexicon concerning these stimuli. There was also a close relationship between the categories affected when he was tested with pictures and printed words. We propose that JM's deficit can be attributed to his semantic system entering an abnormal refractory state once semantic access for a particular item has been achieved, and with this stage being isolated from the procedures providing access to stored lexical knowledge. Furthermore, the representations affected seem common to pictures and printed words. We discuss the implications of the results for understanding the nature of semantic representations in general and for proper names in particular, and for the distinction between access and storage deficits in neuropsychology.
Japanese bilinguals retrieved autobiographical memories in response to 20 English and 20 Japanese cue words. US monolinguals were cued with 40 English words. All participants reported one earliest memory. Japanese bilinguals retrieved more memories and earlier memories when cued with Japanese words. They also retrieved more memories when the cue language matched either the language of memory encoding or the language of first thought. Although English cues elicited equivalent numbers of English and Japanese memories in the more fluent speakers of English, Japanese words elicited significantly larger numbers of Japanese memories in all Japanese-English bilinguals. The average age of cued autobiographical memories was significantly earlier for US than for Japanese students but age of the earliest memory did not differ.
This study addressed the relationship between semantic memory variables and episodic odour recognition across the adult lifespan. Young (19-34 years), young-old (60-69 years), and old women (70-79 years) were tested in a number of measures of semantic memory: letter fluency, category fluency, vocabulary, odour familiarity, and odour naming. Odour recognition memory was assessed on two occasions: immediately after and 48 hours after inspection. Young women outperformed both groups of older women in odour recognition and odour naming, although the two older age groups did not differ. For all age groups, performance declined from immediate to delayed testing. Individual differences in fluency and vocabulary did not predict performance in odour recognition. Rather, odour recognition was related to the subjects' specific semantic knowledge of the odour, as indexed by familiarity and accuracy in odour naming. Hierarchical regression analyses indicated that age and odour naming were the most potent variables in predicting performance in both immediate and delayed odour recognition. Controlling for odour naming resulted in the effect of age disappearing, indicating the pivotal role of accessibility of odour names for successful episodic odour recognition, and for age-related differences in odour recognition.
We report the case of a patient, H.E.C., with a profound verbal comprehension impairment. His comprehension impairment involved both common names (animal and inanimate items) and proper names. Within the proper name category, his comprehension of country and famous peoples' names was better than his comprehension of common forenames. By using matching to sample techniques, H.E.C.'s impairment was found to be affected by presentation rate and by semantic relatedness, but not by word frequency. An analysis of his responses showed marked inconsistency and serial position effects (i.e. a decrement of performance on subsequent presentations of the same items). H.E.C.'s comprehension deficit was interpreted in terms of an "access" impairment within the word-meaning system. A unitary account of this impairment in terms of a deficit that delays the return, following activation, of the set of representations underlying a word, to a "ready state" is proposed.
Four samples of participants recalled autobiographical memories. While some evidence emerged from regression analyses suggesting that judgements of the amount of detail contained in each memory and judgements of the ease with which events could be recalled were partially independent, the analyses generally showed that these judgements were similarly predicted by various event characteristics (age, typicality, self-importance, emotional intensity at event occurrence, rehearsal types). Co-occurrence frequency data yielded similar conclusions, showing that while ease ratings and detail ratings occasionally diverged, they were more often consistent with each other. Finally, the data also suggested that events that prompted emotional ambivalence were not judged to be more easily recalled, or to contain more detail, than non-ambivalent events.
The question of whether early event memories are later accessible for verbal report is of major interest to those concerned with mnemonic processes. In a controlled laboratory study, we examined this question in children 16 and 20 months of age at the time of exposure to event sequences in the context of an elicited-imitation paradigm and who were subsequently tested for memory for the events at delays of 1, 3, 6, 9, or 12 months, and again at the age of 36 months. Stepwise regressions revealed that the number of mnemonic utterances elicited by direct interview at 36 months is predicted by the number of spontaneous mnemonic utterances at the first delayed recall session. Language abilities at exposure were not predictive of verbal report at 36 months of age. Thus, variables from the most recent exposure were of more import than were variables from the time of the initial experience of the events.
Recent theory suggests that personal goals influence the accessibility of autobiographical knowledge. We suggest that this effect is moderated by goal self-concordance: the extent to which a goal is pursued for autonomous rather than controlling reasons. Cueing paradigms were used to measure the accessibility of autobiographical knowledge relating to (i) goals that participants were and were not pursuing, and (ii) currently pursued goals that were high and low in self-concordance. As predicted, autobiographical knowledge relating to currently pursued goals was more accessible than autobiographical knowledge relating to non-pursued goals. General event knowledge relating to self-concordant goals was more accessible than general event knowledge relating to non-self-concordant goals, but a corresponding relationship did not emerge for event-specific knowledge.