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Journal of Memory and Language
Memory and the self
Martin A. Conway
The Leeds Memory Group, Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK Received 19 July 2005; revision received 29 August 2005
Abstract The Self-Memory System (SMS) is a conceptual framework that emphasizes the interconnectedness of self and memory. Within this framework memory is viewed as the data base of the self. The self is conceived as a complex set of active goals and associated self-images, collectively referred to as the working self. The relationship between the working self and long-term memory is a reciprocal one in which autobiographical knowledge constrains what the self is, has been, and can be, whereas the working self-modulates access to long-term knowledge. Speciﬁc proposals concerning the role of episodic memories and autobiographical knowledge in the SMS, their function in deﬁning the self, the neuroanatomical basis of the system, its development, relation to consciousness, and possible evolutionary history are considered with reference to current and new ﬁndings as well as to ﬁndings from the study of impaired autobiographical remembering. Ó 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
´ ` Keywords: Autobiographical memory; Episodic memory; Goals; Recollective experience; Deja vu; Amnesia; Neuroanatomy of memory; EEG; fMRI; Evolution of memory
A key feature of the approach taken to memory here, is that cognition is driven by goals: memory is motivated. This approach is embodied in a conceptual framework termed the Self-Memory System, (SMS, Conway & Pleydell-Pearce, 2000; Conway, Singer, & Tagini, 2004) and the principal aim is to elaborate the nature of and rationale for the SMS. Findings from various domains are used to illustrate aspects of the SMS but a systematic review of the full range of ﬁndings is not undertaken (several very detailed reviews are currently available; see, for example, Conway & Pleydell-Pearce, 2000; Conway, Singer et al., 2004; McAdams, 2001, and edited volumes by Bluck, 2003; Hackmann &
q The author was supported by the award of a Professorial Fellowship from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), RES-051-27-0127 of the United Kingdom and he thanks the ESRC for this support. E-mail address: M.A.Conway@leeds.ac.uk
Holmes, 2004; Beike, Lampien, & Behrand, 2004; Skowronski, 2004). The SMS consists of two main components, the working self and the autobiographical memory knowledge base. When these components interlock in acts of remembering, speciﬁc autobiographical memories can be formed. Each, however, can operate independently and possibly enter into processing sequences other than those mediating memory. Both components and their interaction in remembering are considered in detail in this article. In the opening section, two general distinctions underlying the SMS framework are outlined. These are, ﬁrst, a distinction between the self-coherence of autobiographical knowledge and how it does or does not correspond to experience and, second, a distinction between very recent memories and long-term retention. Subsequent sections consider in turn, the working self, the autobiographical knowledge base, the construction of autobiographical memories, and the neuroanatomical basis of the system. The
0749-596X/$ - see front matter Ó 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2005.08.005
(Tulving. Other patients.A. 1995) retained some general autobiographical factual information. with no episodic memories. such as SS (Cermak & OÕConnor.C. (But note that temporal gradients do not take this form in . McLachlan. 2) and may appear relatively normal for memories in this and earlier periods. 1988) and Clive Wearing (Wilson et al. see Fig. Conway / Journal of Memory and Language 53 (2005) 594–628 609 Fig. For example. Knowledge structures in autobiographical memory.M. Even the most extreme patients. although apparently having no episodic memories at all nevertheless had good knowledge of his past and a set of ÔstoriesÕ about various events which he retained in detail. 2000). 5. & Moscovitch. Schacter. such as K.. other retrograde amnesic patients have temporally graded amnesia which often extends back to roughly the period of the reminiscence bump (when the patients were young adults. reviewed in Conway & Fthenaki. 1983). Yet. most retrograde amnesics retain some conceptual knowledge of their lives and often this can be quite extensive.
Episodic memories and a general event. all cases and temporally graded amnesics are highly variable. They then provide various sorts . one notable patient whose retrograde amnesia extended back to when he had been 19-year-old. is attenuated. One aspect of this organization which has been emphasized in the foregoing discussion is that subsets of knowledge and memories can be used to support and psychologically deﬁne particular self-images. . especially episodic memories.. They are instructed that an ÔI am. subsequently believed himself to be a 19-year-old naval rating on shore leave during World War II (Hodges & McCarthy. for a review). 1954).Õ can be anything and that they should respond with the ﬁrst six ÔI ams. 1996) but occurs in other illnesses too. all middle-aged) complete a short questionnaire in which they list six ÔI ams. In these experiments participants (n = 40. obsessional-compulsive disorder. In the absence of all other autobiographical knowledge in what other way can the self-deﬁne itself except in terms of knowledge currently available? Finally. .Õ (Kuhn & McPartland. 2006. schizophrenia.610 M. 6. Conway & Fthenaki. access to the most speciﬁc types of knowledge. Conway / Journal of Memory and Language 53 (2005) 594–628 Fig. Rathbone.Õ to come to mind and try not to edit or select. . 2006). . 1993). & Conway.A. e. This is especially marked in clinical depression (Williams.. we have been studying current self-images and how these are related to selective sets of memories (Moulin. . it might be noted that in psychological illnesses too. 2000. (see Williams et al.g. Evidence from the laboratory and the study of memory disorders converges then on the view of the organization of autobiographical knowledge depicted in Fig. etc.) Indeed. Recently. 5. .
Conway / Journal of Memory and Language 53 (2005) 594–628 617 Fig.A. before college I remember we bought some nets. When generative retrieval was present the initial elaboration of the cue was followed by further elaborations and in most cases retrieval was terminated when a set of vivid images (episodic memories) enter awareness.M. There are some . Note that. selection of a lifetime period or general event to search. 9. and we had a bucket too.g. Table 7 shows protocols for both these types of elaboration. seating arrangements. on some trials there was no generative retrieval and a memory came rapidly and directly to mind. I donÕt know where that came from—(followed highly speciﬁc mainly visual descriptions of trying to catch small ﬁsh with her friends) commence with an elaboration of the cue in terms of the organization of autobiographical knowledge. everywhere—(followed by series of detailed descriptions of buying drinks. The number of elaborations in iterative searches that were undertaken was highly variable but over 80% terminated within ﬁve elaborations (or at least as we measured these). and our trousers rolled up. etc. just like kids And now I remember a rock pool and we had out nets in the water. Direct and generative retrieval.. Table 7 Schematized memory protocols Cue word Bicycle I can see my own bicycle at home in the garage I rode it a lot when I was home last year in the summer but not at Christmas because of the weather There is a pub on the canal near us and ÔXÕ and I cycled there and it was completely packed out with people sitting outside on the walls.) Seaside When did I last go to the seaside? I just had an image of a beach in Cornwall IÕm trying to remember going there on a holiday just after I left school. e.
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