Autobiographical memories (AM) are memories of a specific event occurring in one point in time, such as watching a particular movie last weekend or attending a friend’s birthday party at a specific restaurant. “When asked to retrieve a specific AM, depressed individuals are more likely than controls to produce categoric over-general memories, which are memories for collections of events (e.g., “going to the cinema”),” said Barbara Dritschel of the University of St. Andrews and lead author of a recent study examining how culture affects memory retrieval in depressed individuals. “These over-general AM retrieval patterns are seen as problematic because they are related to other difficulties, including poor social problem-solving, prolonged recovery from episodes of affective disorders, and poorer imageability of the future.” Identifying specific events from the past is especially difficult for people with depression and can hinder recovery as most talk therapies encourage clients to remember past events to work toward healing. Because this type of memory retrieval has only been examined in limited cultural samples, Dritschel and her colleagues from Chung Shan Medical University in Taiwan wanted to determine if the different cultural life views would elicit different retrieval patterns in depressed individuals from Europe and Asia.
The researchers used the CARFAX model which assesses AM retrieval through three specific mechanisms: capture and rumination, functional avoidance, and impaired executive control. They evaluated 15 Taiwanese individuals and 15 British individuals, all who were clinically depressed. They found that compared to non-depressed participants, the depressed individuals were more general in their AM retrieval. They also found that among the non-depressed individuals, the British participants were able to retrieve more AM than the Taiwanese individuals. “There is also ample evidence that rumination and avoidant coping contribute to over-general recall,” said Dritschel. “These maladaptive thinking and coping styles could also have contributed to the increased production of categoric memories that occurred for the depressed individuals from both cultural groups.”
Dritschel, B., Kao, C.-M., Astell, A., Neufeind, J., & Lai, T.-J. (2011, September 26). How Are Depression and Autobiographical Memory Retrieval Related to Culture?. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025293
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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