The episodicity of verbal reports of personally significant autobiographical memories
Vividness correlates with narrative text quality more than with detailedness or memory specificity
In: Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience,
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3a. Beiträge in begutachteten Zeitschriften; Aufsatz (keine besondere Kategorie)
How can we tell from a memory report whether a memory is episodic or not? Vividness is required by many definitions, whereas detailedness, memory specificity, and narrative text type are competing definitions of episodicity used in research. We explored their correlations with vividness in personally significant autobiographical memories to provide evidence to support their relative claim to define episodic memories. In addition, we explored differences between different memory types and text types as well as between memories with different valences.We asked a lifespan sample (N D168) of 8-, 12-, 16-, 20-, 40-, and 65-year-olds of both genders (N D27, 29, 27, 27, 28, 30) to provide brief oral life narratives. These were segmented into thematic memory units. Detailedness of person, place, and time did not correlate with each other or either vividness, memory specificity, or narrative text type. Narrative text type, in contrast, correlated both with vividness and memory specificity, suggesting narrative text type as a good criterion of episodicity. Emotionality turned out to be an even better predictor of vividness. Also, differences between narrative, chronicle, and argument text types and between specific versus more extended and atemporal memories were explored as well as differences between positive, negative, ambivalent, neutral, contamination, and redemption memory reports. It is concluded that temporal sequentiality is a central characteristic of episodic autobiographical memories. Furthermore, it is suggested that the textual quality of memory reports should be taken more seriously, and that evaluation and interpretation are inherent aspects of personally significant memories.