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The Effects of Cue Content and Cue Repetition on Retrieval from Autobiographical Memory Open Access


Other title
autobiographical memory
cue repetition
direct retrieval
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Uzer Yildiz, Tugba
Supervisor and department
Brown, Norman R (Department of Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Barnier, Amanda (Department of Cognitive Science)
Caplan, Jeremy (Department of Psychology)
Brown, Norman R (Department of Psychology)
Dixon, Peter (Department of Psychology)
Zivkovic, Marko (Department of Anthropology)
Department of Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Autobiographical memories can be recalled through effortful memory search (i.e., generative retrieval). They can also come to mind spontaneously (i.e., direct retrieval). It has long been argued that personal memories are usually generated in word-cueing studies. However, recent research (Uzer, Lee & N. R. Brown, 2012) shows that direct retrieval of autobiographical memories, in response to word cues, is common. This encourages further investigation of the conditions which increase or decrease direct retrieval. In this thesis, I explore the ways different cueing conditions (i.e., specific versus generic cues, cue repetition) influence the frequency of directly retrieved autobiographical memories. In Experiment 1, participants retrieved memories in response to cues from their own life (e.g., the names of friends) and object terms (e.g., chair). In Experiment 2, participants provided their personal cues two or three months prior to coming to the lab. In Experiment 3 only person, location, activity and possession cues from the more distant past (i.e., from high school years) were elicited. Experiment 4 investigated how cue repetition impacts the prevalence of direct retrieval. Participants retrieved memories in response to each personal cue once, twice or three times. In all experiments, RT was measured and participants reported whether memories were directly retrieved or generated on each trial. The first three experiments showed that personal cues elicited a high rate of direct retrieval. Personal cues were more likely to elicit direct retrieval than object terms, and as a consequence, participants responded faster, on average, to the former than to the latter. Experiment 4 indicated that direct retrieval decreased as the number of cue repetitions increased. Cue repetition slowed down the memory search/generation process. In contrast, cue repetition did not affect direct retrieval. These results challenge the constructive view of autobiographical memory and suggest that autobiographical memories consist of pre-stored event representations, which are largely governed by associative mechanisms. A substantial reduction in direct retrieval with cue repetition implies that inhibitory processes also influence retrieval. These demonstrations offer theoretically interesting research directions such as exploring the role of interference versus inhibition in accessing memories. Finally, implications for selective use of memory are discussed.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Uzer, T., Lee, P. J., & Brown, N. R. (2012). On the Prevalence of Directly Retrieved Autobiographical Memories. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition,38, 1296-1308.

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