The role of autobiographical memory in social problem-solving
This thesis presents five studies which examine the role of autobiographical memory in social problem-solving. All studies examined social problem-solving ability with the Means-End Problem-Solving (MEPS; J. J. Platt & G. Spivack, 1975) task, during which participants were required to attend to the memories retrieved during solution generation. Memories were categorized according to whether they were specific, categoric or extended. Studies 1 and 2 examined MEPS performance and cueing task performance in non-clinically and clinically depressed groups respectively. The results supported the general hypothesis that social problem-solving skill is a function of autobiographical memory retrieval as measured by the cueing task and by the types of memories retrieved during the MEPS. Study 1 highlighted the role of specific memories in successful problem-solving while Study 2 showed a more prominent relationship between categoric retrieval and poor problemsolving. Studies 3&4 examined the role of the central executive in memory and problem-solving by manipulating resource availability using a- dual task paradigm. Results indicated that the central executive may play a role in social problem-solving. As regards autobiographical memory retrieval, the role of the central executive appeared to be differentially involved in the cueing task and during the MEPS since a greater cognitive load was required to disrupt performance on the cueing task. Studies 3&4 also suggested gender differences in the use of autobiographical memory during problem-solving with females more reliant on a specific memory database and detailed problem-solving style. Finally Study 5 aimed to improve social problemsolving skills in a clinically depressed group by encouraging specific retrieval during the MEPS. The results showed the retrieval manipulation to be successful although this did not have any apparent effect on MEPS performance.