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An Investigation of Autobiographical Memory Patterns of the Extremely Emotional Life Events: Personal Memory Telling and Reference Points

Nurhan Er, Fatma Uçar
2004; 19(53):1-22

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The purpose of this investigation was to examine the features of autobiographical memories in two groups of women by means of personal memory telling and reference points. Data were collected from 60 convicts from the prison for the first group and 68 volunteers for the comparison group who were selected on the basis of the various demographic profiles. In the first session, two groups of women who reported the characteristics of their upsetting memories were compared, and features of recollections were also inspected for negative and positive life events in only one group. In the second session, we explored the frequency of memories associated with 3 reference points (time, location, person) extracted from the participants records gathered in the preceding session. They rated frequency of memories associated of this reference points. We conducted a series of mixed ANOVAs to examine whether there were differences between autobiographical memory features for the prison and comparison groups. While negative memories of two groups were analyzed and compared, negative and positive memories were evaluated only for the comparison group who reported both their negative and positive life events. The data were also inspected by using regression analysis to test the mediated contextual model. Results showed that main differences between the negative experiences for both groups were associated with flashbulb memories. Negative experiences of prison group contained more central details and more emotional information as compared to the negative experiences of the other group. The results indicated that some memory characteristics were similar for positive and other negative emotional memories, but the level of impact, elicited emotions, richness of the sensory details, and type of the enhanced memory were interacted with the quality of the event. Findings were discussed in the light of autobiographical memory literature regarding the nature of the event and flashbulb memories.

Keywords: Autobiographical memory, extremely emotional life-events, reference points, flashbulb memories