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Title: The accessibility and organisation of self statements in autobiographical memory
Author: Charlesworth, Lara Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 5924 3875
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2015
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It is considered that our memories of experience constrain what the self can be because this tethers the self in reality. Likewise, what we can retrieve about our past probably also influences how we describe and think about our self. Furthermore, one way of thinking about the self is as a store of personally relevant information meaning that it is linked to the very notion of memory. Using a novel fluency paradigm, this thesis explores the idea that the accessibility and organisation of self statements is intimately associated with autobiographical memory. Experimental work in Study 1a revealed that it is possible to use memory in order to ‘boost’ access to the self. Recall of an autobiographical memory increased the retrieval of self statements in a novel fluency task, and psychological selves in particular (e.g., I am kind). Study 2 showed that the accessibility of self statements varies across the lifespan and that selves emerge around key autobiographical milestones (e.g., during the period of the reminiscence bump). In Study 3, a neuropsychological approach was used to explore the impact of amnesia on the accessibility of temporally extended aspects of the self (i.e. past, present and hoped for self) in a single case study on patient SA. Findings showed that retrograde amnesia had no impact on the accessibility of self statements, yet SA failed to generate a single psychological description of her current identity. Study 4 indicated that autobiographical memories cluster around times when a new self emerges, reflecting the importance of memory in maintaining a coherent sense of self in spite of change. Finally, Study 5 aimed to extend the results from Study 3 to a group of people with severe memory impairment. Unlike SA, these participants were impaired in their ability to access self statements, but no relationship between episodic impairment and the accessibility of psychological selves was found. Across all chapters, this thesis presents the I Am Fluency Task as a valuable tool for meaningfully ‘measuring’ the self, and the clinical implications of this will be considered throughout. The experiments in this thesis help to delineate more clearly the role of memory processes in the retrieval of self statements. On the whole, it is found that whilst episodic retrieval processes seem to be implicated in the retrieval of self statements, such as in the first experiment, the other studies show that even when autobiographical memory is impaired, access to certain aspects of the self - probably maintained by semantic memory -persist. Thus, the self is a complex dynamic structure which draws upon both autobiographical memory and also personal semantics, and may be updated and maintained by a complex co-ordination of information from multiple memory systems.
Supervisor: Havelka, Jelena ; Allen, Richard ; Moulin, Chris Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available