Specificity in autobiographical memory narratives correlates with performance on the Autobiographical Memory Test and prospectively predicts depressive symptoms

Jennifer A. Sumner, Susan Mineka, Dan P McAdams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

Reduced autobiographical memory specificity (AMS) is an important cognitive marker in depression that is typically measured with the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT; Williams & Broadbent, 1986). The AMT is widely used, but the over-reliance on a single methodology for assessing AMS is a limitation in the field. The current study investigated memory narratives as an alternative measure of AMS in an undergraduate student sample selected for being high or low on a measure of depressive symptoms (N=55). We employed a multi-method design to compare narrative- and AMT-based measures of AMS. Participants generated personally significant self-defining memory narratives, and also completed two versions of the AMT (with and without instructions to retrieve specific memories). Greater AMS in self-defining memory narratives correlated with greater AMS in performance on both versions of the AMT in the full sample, and the patterns of relationships between the different AMS measures were generally similar in low and high dysphoric participants. Furthermore, AMS in self-defining memory narratives was prospectively associated with depressive symptom levels. Specifically, greater AMS in self-defining memory narratives predicted fewer depressive symptoms at a 10-week follow-up over and above baseline symptom levels. Implications for future research and clinical applications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)646-656
Number of pages11
JournalMemory
Volume21
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013

Keywords

  • Autobiographical Memory Test
  • Autobiographical memory specificity
  • Depression
  • Narrative
  • Overgeneral autobiographical memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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