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Voluntary and Involuntary Access to Autobiographical Memory

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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.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 1998

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