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Effect of self-discrepancy on specificity of autobiographical memory retrieval

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Research using a cue word paradigm has consistently shown that depression, in both adults and adolescents, is associated with difficulties in retrieving specific autobiographical memories. Inspired by previous work stating that depressed feelings are related to a perceived discrepancy between attributes of the actual and the ideal self, the present study aimed to investigate the hypothesis that cues bringing discrepancies between the actual and ideal selves to the foreground might promote or facilitate the recall of overgeneral (instead of specific) autobiographical memories. In two studies adolescents provided autobiographical memories in response to 10 high-discrepant and 10 low-discrepant words. As predicted, results in both studies showed an effect of cue word discrepancy on the specificity of autobiographical memories such that participants retrieved a smaller proportion of specific and a greater proportion of overgeneral memories in response to high-discrepant words as compared to low-discrepant words. The findings are discussed in terms of the self-memory system (SMS) as a conceptual framework of autobiographical memory (Conway & Pleydell-Pearce, 2000).
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Keywords: Autobiographical memory; Depression; Self-discrepancy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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