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Functions of Autobiographical Memory

Harris, C. B., Rasmussen, A. S., & Berntsen, D. (2014). The functions of autobiographical memory: An integrative approach. Memory, 22(5), 559-581.

The authors studied the relationship between the dominant trifunctional model of autobiographical memory in cognitive psychology and the broad classification of memory functions in the recall literature, the frequency of reported memory functions, the content of memory evoked for various functions, and changes in memory feature for a lifetime. The authors attempted to identify overlapping and diverging patterns between these two different approaches to develop a broader understanding of memory function.

In study1 the authors aimed to study and analyze the correlations between the memory functions measured by the RFS vs. the TALE-R the two most common scales that are used in these pieces of literature to see how the functions measured in these two traditions were huddled together that conceptualized in four different classes of memory functions generative, social, ruminative and reflective. Study 2 tests the four-factor concept to a broader range of individual differences in rumination, sociability, generativity, and reflection as well as to mood and emotional regulation. They included mood measures and emotional regulation because the functions are quite balanced. The authors calculated co-relations between four classes of memory functions measured by TALE-R and the RFS scale in study 1 and the individual differences measures that are LGS, SPS, ERQ, and RRQ. The authors adopted Alternative methods to examine the nature of the memory functions in study 3 and found differences in the qualities of memories expulsed for different functions in which the clearest and with the most consistent differences were in terms of emotional valence. Factor analysis in Study 1 and comparison of lifespan in Study 4 showed the value of including additional features in the recall literature. The analysis shows that memory functions are broadly grouped into four general classes, which are broadly consistent with the four quadrants of the Webster (2003) circumplex model. This complex model includes both growth/pre-emptive and loss/reactive uses of autobiographical memory. They interpreted the functioning of these four functions as reflexive, generative, reflective, and social. The authors view that the benefit of conceptualization is that at least three of these four aspects are related to well-known individual differences and motivations. Therefore, they tried to identify the parameters that suggest ways to link the various motives of remembering the past with more general motives.

While elaborating on the four classes social, ruminative reflective, and generative functions the authors also found that there are additional functions of the memory that have not been measured by either of the scales. One particularly frequently theorized function that does not exist on any scale is emotional regulation. The idea is that people use memory to correct negative emotions and maintain positive moods. They note that there is only one entry in the article's study as being associated with emotional regulation "to survive depression" from the RFS scale of boredom-reducing factors. The authors make use of different integrative approaches and based their findings from relevant and reliable data that is found in the pieces of literature and draw results regarding the several functions of autobiographical memories while maintaining that there are additional functions that have yet to be studied.

Liao, H. W., Bluck, S., Alea, N., & Cheng, C. L. (2016). Functions of autobiographical memory in Taiwanese and American emerging adults. Memory, 24(4), 423-436.

Correlation between Memory Functions Measured by Different Scales

  The article highlights how cultures shape autobiographical memory and the theories related to memories that serve psychosocial functions in response to environmental and cultural demands. The study examines the cultural and personal factors that contribute to the use of memory in adults in terms of adaptive functions. The focus is on the three functions: self-sufficiency, social connectivity, and behavior management.

   The current study examines cultural context and personality level factors related to the functional use of Autobiographical memories of Taiwanese and American youth confirming the author’s predictions. Taiwanese were more likely to use memory to maintain self-sufficiency, and Taiwanese and American adults reported the same frequency of use of directive memory while recurring memories and events were found to be a social function (Waters, Bauer & Fivush 2014). No expected cultural effects on the functioning of social connections were found. Some personality level factors (e.g., conscientiousness, neuroticism, prospects) are culture and gender-specific. Sometimes such differences are related to the functional use of memory. Emerging adults from Taiwan (N= 85.52 females) and the United States (N= 95.51 females) completed the reflection on the Life Experiences scale and measured personality traits, self-image clarity, and prospects. The results show that people from both cultures use their memory to perform these three functions, but Taiwanese use their memory more than Americans to maintain self-sufficiency, although some literature finds no differences in the use of memory to direct behaviour (Maki et al., 2014) Culture also interacted with personality level factors. In Taiwan, memory is more often used for self-sufficiency in people with a high level of conscience, but not in the United States. Across cultures, lower self-image sharpness is associated with greater memory use for self-sufficiency. Emerging adults across all cultures appear to use their memory to navigate the future ( Klein, 2013), the authors find it imminent that both Taiwanese and Americans need to plan and direct towards the future due to the fact that they have to face the task of planning their careers and families. The results are discussed in the context in which memory can predict the functional use of memory during adulthood and how it functions in certain aspects of Taiwanese and American cultural contexts.

   The study relies on self-reports (TALE) which is a micro-level report and therefore serves many limitations. There is an absence of macro-level cultural markers and the absence of participants from different stages of life. The authors have used reliable sources to confer their results and are a humble attempt to provide the necessary data with much precision.

This survey in the article adds to the already existing growing body of research on the functions of memory or rather a human remembering across the globe. The data presented here is giving tentative support for directive, self-directive and social functioning of the autobiographical memory reported in the literature which can be seen since the 1970s.

Vrani?, A., Jeli?, M., & Tonkovi?, M. (2018). Functions of autobiographical memory in younger and older adults. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 219.

Differences in Qualities of Memories Expelled for Different Functions

The research article by the authors aims to explore the different functions of autobiographical memory in adult humans spanning from younger to old ages by building on previous studies and testing the validity of reflections on lists of life experiences (TALE) by using cross-cultural approaches. 

The aim of this study focuses on the utility of TALE, as the degree to which a particular result can be generalized depends on the universality of the methodology, multicultural studies are needed to further validate its functionality (Alea & Wang, 2015). The authors explain that a functional approach to autobiographical memory (AM) assumes three broad functions: directive, independence, and social functioning. These features may be universal, but life stages and gender differences are expected. A sample of 365 adults divided into two age groups (56 males, mean age of 43.3 years) and young adults ranging from 18-45 years old, elderly aging from 46-90 years old using TALE for three different goals tendencies in using (AM) were evaluated, Indicators of self-esteem, attachment in close relationships, clarity of temporal perspective. The authors found that younger adults were more likely to use AM for future behavioral guidance and social connections, no age differences were therefore found in AM use for self-service maintenance. In terms of gender change, the findings showed that women were much likely to use AM to control their behavior (Grysman & Hudson, 2013) but no other gender differences were found in autobiographical memory use. While memory used and adaptative capacity are related, an appropriate line of research aims to identify first how the Autobiographical memory is used and second to clarify the adaptation of AM in the everyday life. The authors state that in recent advances most of these ideas have been reflected in AM research and theory-based questionnaires on AM functioning that is ‘things about memory’ questionnaires (Wang et al., 2015) and thoughts on life experiencing scale, most researchers agree upon the three crucial functions of AM, and yet there have been many suggestions and findings that emotional regulation is also a part of the AM functions as well as has other functions (Harris et al., 2014) In the study that was conducted TALE confirmed proper inner consistency and convergent validity of the 3 subscales, the theory led hypotheses confirmed that people with low self-esteem readability could use the Autobiographical memory with greater frequency to serve a self-function, while people with a high attachment anxiety level used the AM more for social functioning and past-oriented people use more memory for the self-functioning theory. Also confirmed was the directive use of AM and the concept of past negative orientation was greatly related to the positive temporal orientation in the past.

In the limitations and further directions section, the authors agree that there were promising results to the three-way AM functional model, but there appeared to be some methodological issues that required addressing and discussing the complex guidelines that the TALE questionnaires follow and deemed it a little unreliable in terms of its accuracy as many people might not know the AM functions. The TALE as a sole construct is a narrower focus and does not cover the full extent of using memory in everyday life.

Cultural and Personal Factors that Contribute to the Use of Memory in Adults

Three theoretical functions of AM have been repeatedly mentioned in the literature. Emphasizing the functions of the AM for a variety of reasons (self-direction, directive, social functioning) supports the idea that memory has different functions in its everyday usage and confirm to some extent the existence of three functions but also provide an opportunity to explore the fourth (emotional regulation) function along with several other functions to refine our understanding of the vastness that AM serves.

Josselyn, S. A., & Frankland, P. W. (2018). Memory allocation: mechanisms and function. Annual review of neuroscience, 41, 389-413.

The authors in this article review the findings from different studies that memory allocations determine how the engrams form and interact with each other.

In this article, the authors review many studies that show that distributions determine how engrams are formed and interacted with. Distributions have been observed in different regions of the brain and have been implicated in a variety of learning tasks. Similarities have emerged between the results of human and animal experiments, and these similarities highlight common characteristics of the neural mechanisms mediating memory connections and sharing. Taken together, these studies show that allocations champion a competitive process that serves as a means to connect past and present experiences. Moreover, the dissemination process can ensure that information is well-structured in the brain and facilitate the adaptive transformation of memories of individual events into organized conceptual knowledge. Thus, the distribution may represent a general organizing principle for structuring memory and mnemonic information in the brain. Through the Pavlovian fear conditioning paradigm (figure 1 of the article) initially a synchronously neutral tone {conditioned stimulus (CS)} is combined with an aversive paw current [unconditioned stimulus (US)]. Subsequent expression of tone elicits defensive responses including freezing {conditional response (CR)} these rodent experiments show how an appropriate neuron competes for a position in a given engram, and the more excited neuron wins in this competition. They study how the various fluctuations in the excitability of neurons determine the way engrams interact to facilitate memory consolidations (via overlap with nested engrams) or separations (via offsets into non-overlapping engrams). Some evidence for both experimental animals and humans suggests that one of the key functions of distribution is to associate (or consolidate) the engrams underlying various experiences involving temporal or contextual variables and to disambiguate (or dissociate) extraneous memories. (Schlichting & Frankland, 2017)

The article is extensive and the information provided has been taken from a previously reviewed article which makes it quite reliable in terms of information, although it becomes a tad difficult to comprehend due to the many jargons and repetitive sentences the article is informative and provides ample amount of data for conducting further researches.

Findings from the allocation studies may reveal neural mechanisms and memory-related Distortions which can be an underlying factor to many illnesses like schizophrenia (Treadway et al., 2015) although schizophrenia usually causes hallucinations, studies have shown many people with this disorder have cognitive impairments, including problems with short term and long-term memory and poor functioning of memory is generally indicated.zut, J. E., & Asbjornsen, A. E. (2012). Verbal learning and memory functions in adolescents with reading disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 35(3), 184-195.

In this article, the authors made comparisons with two sets of the adolescent group in evaluating their verbal learning ability and memory recall functions who possess reading disabilities.

Self-Sufficiency, Social Connectivity, and Behavior Management

The authors of this study used a newly developed language learning test, the Bergen-Tucson language learning test (BTVLT), to compare the memory scores between the adolescent students with special reading disabilities (RD) with that of the general adolescent readers. The challenges that children with reading disabilities face are the recognition of words in their accurate form. fluency of reading materials., decoding, and also spelling. The authors explore two different hypotheses that memory problems in children with RD arise at the retrieval stage and other studies suggest that verbal memory problems are the result of poor assimilations and storage of new information. Because, cognitive paradigms are thought to aid memory recovery, deficits in cognitive tasks were considered evidence of defective memory encoding functions rather than retrieval problems. The BTVLT multiple trial test is designed to measure the speed at which memories are acquired, retained, retrieved, and forgotten as well as the ability to organize and retrieve information from memory according to the phonological (surface) and semantic (lexical) characteristics of words. The test consisted of a total of twenty RD participants and 20 control (mean age- 15.2 years) participants that were matched for sex, age, and ethnicity. The results showed that the RD group learned only a few list items than the controlled group and also learned it at a significantly slower pace. participants with RD showed ineffective repetition strategies as compared to the controlled but were equally proficient in remembering information after learning, and also showed a slower recollection of the few words in both semantic and phonetic recall conditions but the effect size proved to be much larger for the latter. This evidence clubbed together suggested that students with RD tend to retain information, although the rehearsal and coding mechanisms are far less efficient.  Through the samples collected the results show that adolescents have problems accessing phonological codes, as evidenced by effect sizes associated with phonological use. In the article the poor recall performance could be the result of a failure to retain information in memory or problematic retrieval when required by a task. But there was no significant difference and so it does not support either view.

Though it is a comprehensive study the investigative capability and the accuracy of the tests depend on the retainability of the participants that were tested. The authors in the study acknowledge the limitations of the study due to its test sample size and the accuracy of the results it is difficult to analyse whether the outcomes of the tests would be the same if a larger sample was taken in its place. There is no jargon in the article which makes it easier to comprehend but there are seemingly low references and sources to test the accuracy of the study while some sources that have been taken are from old sources.

Memory as a functional entity here is based solely on the fact how retention in different humans takes place. Retention and verbal relaying are one of the functions of memory that are essential for the memory to actually function in a structured directive manner or to convey academic material. Faulty functioning of memory can lead to speech defects, difficulty in reading and comprehension memory losses or even having no memory at all. 

Alea, N., & Wang, Q. (2015). Going global: The functions of autobiographical memory in cultural context. Memory, 23(1), 1-10.

Grysman, A., & Hudson, J. A. (2013). Gender differences in autobiographical memory: Developmental and methodological considerations. Developmental Review, 33(3), 239-272.

Harris, C. B., Rasmussen, A. S., & Berntsen, D. (2014). The functions of autobiographical memory: An integrative approach. Memory, 22(5), 559-581.

Klein, S. B. (2013). The temporal orientation of memory: It's time for a change of direction. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 2(4), 222-234.

Maki, Y., Kawasaki, Y., Demiray, B., & Janssen, S. M. (2015). Autobiographical memory functions in young Japanese men and women. Memory, 23(1), 11-24.

Oyler, J. D., Obrzut, J. E., & Asbjornsen, A. E. (2012). Verbal learning and memory functions in adolescents with reading disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 35(3), 184-195.

Oyler, J. D., Obrzut, J. E., & Asbjornsen, A. E. (2012). Verbal learning and memory functions in adolescents with reading disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 35(3), 184-195.

Schlichting, M. L., & Frankland, P. W. (2017). Memory allocation and integration in rodents and humans. Current opinion in behavioral sciences, 17, 90-98.

Treadway, M. T., Peterman, J. S., Zald, D. H., & Park, S. (2015). Impaired effort allocation in patients with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia research, 161(2-3), 382-385.

Vrani?, A., Jeli?, M., & Tonkovi?, M. (2018). Functions of autobiographical memory in younger and older adults. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 219.

Wang, Q., Koh, J. B. K., Song, Q., & Hou, Y. (2015). Knowledge of memory functions in European and Asian American adults and children: The relation to autobiographical memory. Memory, 23(1), 25-38.

Waters, T. E., Bauer, P. J., & Fivush, R. (2014). Autobiographical memory functions served by multiple event types. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28(2), 185-195.

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[Accessed 14 July 2024].

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