Conference Venue: York Conference Park British Psychological Society
From: 21 Mar 2007 To: 23 Mar 2007
Studying the autobiographical past: Verificaton and standards of measurement
Autobiographical memory is a rich domain of study that can yield important insights about the human memory system. However, when studying memories that are not generated and retrieved within a laboratory setting, we face genuine measurement challenges. One of these is verifiability – whether retrieved memories are truly genuine – and another is whether to approach the organisation of the past from an objective or subjective point of view. I will briefly outline some existing ways to address verifiability, including the use of recorded personal events, informants, and public event paradigms. I will then discuss approaches to the measurement of autobiographical memory organisation. On the one hand, memories can be considered using objective measures such as their chronological distance from the present or by biological age of the individual at the time of their encoding. On the other, the autobiographical past can be considered in terms of events, boundaries or stages that were meaningful to the individual. I will illuminate these issues by taking as an example a study (Fradera & Ward, 2006) that addresses verification conventionally, by using public events, and looks at organisation of memory in a more novel fashion, using a metric taken from the participants’ subjective perspective. This measure is formed by asking participants to construe their past in terms of subjectively defined life periods, and assessing their contribution to remembrance of public events that fall within them using a quantitative methodology.