Memory for Event Content in Autobiographical Accounts: An Alternative Approach to Measuring the Existence of Pleasant Memory Biases in Autobiograical Memory

By Maryam Aliza Anwaar.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Previous research in autobiographical memory (AM) has found evidence that claims that
pleasant memories are slightly better remembered than unpleasant ones (Walker et al, 1997). However
most of these studies are conducted to measure memories with an ‘event’ as a unit of analysis, and
largely ignore the memory content associated with such autobiographical experiences. It is worth
asking whether the memory for an event is a good predictor of all the information contained in it? If
not, then which parts of the event memory content are better remembered? Also are pleasant details
of an event better remembered, or unpleasant ones? This is pertinent because a valenced memory can
contain both pleasant and unpleasant details, and it is worth exploring if the memory for details differ
on valence (i.e. thier pleasantness or unpleasantness). One problem with addressing such concerns is
the lack of a systematic framework within which such memory content can be defined and thus studied.
This paper contends that the first methodological issue in accessing memory content is the failure to
incorporate personal evaluations of the memory into the event memory structure for autobiographical
accounts, which in turn makes it difficult to define and thus measure AM content. One area of research
that does not ignore this aspect comes from the cognitive appraisal theories, and borrowing from these
the paper would attempt to develop a framework in which event memory content can be defined as
either an external detail or an appraisal. External details would include core details (such as where
the event occurred and who were the characters in it), and peripheral details which would include all
perceptual data, along with data processed at sensory motor level. Appraisals would include all internal
details which are defined as the subjective interpretations processed at higher schematic or conceptual
level as proposed and differentiated by Sherers’ SEC Model (2001). Using this new model, autobiographical
accounts will be collected from subjects using the diary methodology. Upon collection the
content will be analyzed such that memory content details are separated both along type( i.e. core,
peripheral, or appraisal) and emotionality ( i.e. pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral ) details. Subjects will then be
tested for the memories of the events and event content to determine the nature of such autobiographical

Keywords: Measuring Autobiographical Memory, Autobiographical Memory for Emotions, Autobiographical Memory for Pleasant and Unpleasant Events, Autobiographical Event Memory, Remembering Emotional Experiences, Measuring Autobiographical Memory Content

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.319-342. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.912MB).

Maryam Aliza Anwaar

BSc Honors Graduate, Department of Social Science and Mathematics, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan

I studied at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, (Pakistan) where Psychology and Mathematics were my areas of special interest. Future plans include doing a PhD in Cognitive Psychology and Mathematics and carrying out research in these fields.


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