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Theories of autobiographical memory have emphasised effortful generative retrieval, but recent research indicates that subjectively effortless direct retrieval is common. We compared the processes of direct and generative retrieval. Sixty-five participants retrieved 24 autobiographical memories across three cue types: concrete, emotional, and personal. We recorded retrieval latency, and participants judged direct versus generative retrieval and rated memory specificity, vividness, significance, rehearsal, and emotionality. Overall, direct retrieval was common, especially for personal cues. Directly retrieved memories were recalled faster, were less likely to be specific, and were rated more significant, rehearsed, and emotional than generatively retrieved memories. The speed of both direct and generative retrieval varied similarly according to cue type, suggesting they did not involve fundamentally different cognitive processes. These findings challenge theories that assume direct retrieval bypasses constructive processes. Instead we suggest that both direct and generative retrieval involve construction that is similarly affected by cue concreteness and relevance.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Consciousness and cognition
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Type of declarative memory, consisting of personal memory in contrast to general knowledge.
An area in the temporal lobe that is important for memory encoding and retrieval. It is bordered caudally by the parahippocampal cortex (see HIPPOCAMPUS) and ventrally and medially by the ENTORHINAL CORTEX.
A neuropsychological test designed to assess different memory functions. It may incorporate an optional cognitive exam (Brief Cognitive Status Exam) that helps to assess memory related cognitive function.
Neurological process involving the conversion of learned information into long-term memory.
Complex mental function having four distinct phases: (1) memorizing or learning, (2) retention, (3) recall, and (4) recognition. Clinically, it is usually subdivided into immediate, recent, and remote memory.