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Autobiographical memories for places

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The purpose of the present exploratory study was to investigate operations and contents of a naturally occurring reminiscence for physical places in 26 Swedish participants. Using Conway and Pleydell-Pearce's (2000) model of autobiographical memory as a framework, two main questions were examined. First, in what sense are physical places ingredients of our selves—that is, of our self-knowledge—and, if so, how are they and their characteristics organised in the autobiographical knowledge base? Second, what form do personal memories for places take and what kinds of meanings and emotional contents do we bind to this type of reminiscence? The results showed that the Swedish participants' most important places in their lives were mainly childhood- and cottage-related rural types of milieus, and mostly categorised as summarised events; that is, frequently revisited. The personal recollections of the place-related event-specific knowledge were mostly of the generic imagery type, comprising semantic, perceptual, and emotional contents related to the “self”, “others”, and the “environment”. The memories mainly reflected on the participants' growth period and feelings of activation and pleasantness. This was more pronounced in older ( M = 59) than in younger ( M = 35) participants. All this indicates that physical places can serve as thematic pathways guiding reminiscence and self-knowing consciousness as we recollect details of perceptual, semantic, and emotional characters of periods in our lives.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Gävle, Sweden

Publication date: April 1, 2006

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