What is autobiographical memory? Illustrate your answer with some examples from research
“Autobiographical memory is a memory system consisting of episodes recollected from an individual’s life, based on a combination of episodic and semantic memory” (Williams, H. L., Conway, M. A., & Cohen, G. 2008). As you can see from this definition, autobiographical memory is a very broad topic when it comes down to memory. Some textbooks describe autobiographical memory to be just another name for episodic memory. In general, autobiographical memory is memory related to the self; it can help explain why it is we don’t remember memories from early childhood and why it is we can remember certain memories better than others. To understand this we must look into what exactly autobiographical memory is, how’s its formed and its functions.
Autobiographical memory can be split into four parts, the first being the differentiation between noetic and autonoetic memory. The former made up of biological facts such as where you were born and the latter recollecting your first day at school. The second part argues the difference between copies and reconstructions of an episode. Copies are clear memories of an episode that contain lots of sensual properties. Reconstrucions on the other hand, use interpreations with the help of hindsight to create new information and are not true to the original memory. The third part explains how memories could be specific or generic. Specific memories are recollections of certain events such as your 10th birthday. Generic memories are more vague and only provide a small amount of detail such as a day at work. The final part of autobiographical memory is that experiences can be represented from a different persepctive, these being field and observer. Field memories are recalled from the original viewpoint from a first person point of view. Observer memories are the opposite in the sense that these memories are recalled in a third