Autobiographical Memory

From our textbooks we learned of autobiographical memory. According to Goldstein, autobiographical memory (AM) has been defined as recollected events that belong to a person’s past (205). So basically when we are reminiscing or trying to recall an event that took place in our lives, we travel backwards in time to remember ourselves in that situation. Autobiographical memories are our episodic memories as well as our semantic memories. If I am given a random date, like April 9th 2013 I am not going to remember anything! There is nothing significant to me about the month of April and that’s probably the same with others, if nothing significant happened the date probably won’t be remembered well. Also our textbook advises that AM is episodic memory for events in our lives plus personal semantic memories of facts about our lives (205). A visual experience is important in AM, according to our textbook patients who have suffered brain damage that resulted in the inability to recognize objects or to visualize objects because of the damage to the visual cortex also experience a loss of AM (205).

I found this article that was interesting to read about. The article titled “When Memories Never Fade, The Past Can Poison The Present” written by Alix Spiegel wrote an article about a girl named Alexandra Wolfe who has what is known as highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM). This is basically autobiographical memory on steroids. As I stated I can barely remember what happened two or three months ago if it was not significant, but this lady remembers everything. In the article, Alexandra can remember information as far back as 2004, maybe even further back she can remember events. She remembers the event, what she wore, the little details on what other people wore of course the date, and other specific details. While reading the article I thought that this would be an interesting thing to have along with photographic memory for school purposes, but Alexandra says HSAM can be frustrating to deal with because she feels like she always stuck in the past. Alexandra is one of only 55 people identified in the United States as having HSAM (Spiegel).

Remembering past experience is what I think makes our personalities. AM is a multidimensional because it consists of spatial, emotional and sensory elements (205). For an event that has some emotions attached like a wedding or giving birth we can take ourselves back to that event recalling the date, the emotions, the people involved, and your thoughts. Many of us do recall events from the past often during a day or a week but we either don’t remember the event entirely or accurately. I just thought that it was cool that there are few folks out there remember details very vividly. Like most people, I tend to remember details about events that occurred more recently which would be controlled by episodic memory, but the text read that episodic memory fades after a while leaving only semantic memories and memories for events that happened a while ago becomes semantic (205).

Spiegel, Alix. “When Memories Never Fade, The Past Can Poison The Present.” NPR. NPR.Org, 12 Dec.    2013. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.

Goldstein, E. Bruce. Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience.

Belmont: Wadsworth, 2011. Print.


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