Keynote speakers

Fabrice Berna, CHRU de Strasbourg

Fabrice Berna

A Dysconnexion Between Self and Autobiographical Memory in Schizophrenia?

Disorders of self are regarded as core symptoms of schizophrenia. As autobiographical memory (AM) represents a crucial ground for the self, investigating AM provides a unique way to better understanding the cognitive mechanisms of these alterations. Several studies demonstrated patients’ difficulty to mentally travel in time and to re-experience the person they were in past events. These findings point to alterations of the experiential component of self. Other studies showed that patients were impaired in their capacity to reason about past events and to find out the meaning of these events, this pointing to a weakness of the narrative self. Altogether, these results led us to the hypothesis of a dysconnexion between the self and autobiographical memories in schizophrenia. This dysconnexion would be the consequence of altered executive processes linked to the self, this affecting the balance between cognitive and affective processes. This dysconnexion may also account for a deficient organization of AM and the development and maintenance of persecutory delusions. The therapeutic implications of the findings will be finally discussed.

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Felipe De Brigard, Duke University

Autobiographical Memory and Moral Decision-Making

It is commonly held that autobiographical memory structures our personal identity through time, and that it provides the foundation of our enduring self. Recently, however, a number of studies have shown that the continuity of our moral traits and the systematicity of our moral decision-making may be more important to our judgments of self and personhood than the continuity of our autobiographical memories. What is unclear, though, is how autobiographical memory and moral decision-making interact. In this talk I will explore this issue, and will present some results that speak to the way in which people remember personal events involving moral decision-making.

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Barbara Dritschel, University of St. Andrews

Bridging the Gap:  The Role of Autobiographical Memory in Facilitating our Understanding of the Self in Autism Spectrum Disorder

An atypical sense of self is a characteristic feature of autism spectrum disorders (ASD).  A key component for the development of the self is the ability to retrieve autobiographical memories. Research employing different paradigms will demonstrate how autobiographical memories are retrieved in autism spectrum disorder.  The findings from these different paradigms each shed a different perspective into the functioning of the self in ASD.  Focus will be on topics such as the ability to retrieve specific autobiographical memories and how this ability is associated with theory of mind for self and others.  The quality of self defining memories in individuals with ASD versus their typically developed counterparts is another aspect that will be reviewed. Research involving both children and adults will be covered.  The findings will illustrate that the relationship between the self and autobiographical memory retrieval is complex in ASD and highlight some unanswered questions worthy of future research.

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Rick H. Hoyle, Duke University

Rick Hoyle

The Interplay of Self-Regulation and Autobiographical Memory

Self-regulation encompasses the cognitive, motivational, and behavioral processes by which personal goals are autonomously pursued. The sources of personal goals are many, ranging from the demands of immediate circumstances to long-term considerations such as identity, values, and aspirations. Autobiographical memory has clear relevance for goals that reflect such long-term considerations. The role of autobiographical memory in the self-regulation of goal pursuits that reflect more immediate or mundane concerns is less clear. To highlight potential connections between autobiographical memory and routine self-regulation, I first delineate the various processes implicated in most instances of self-regulation. I then explore potential connections between those processes and features of autobiographical memory. I emphasize the likely reciprocal relations between self-regulatory processes and autobiographical memory. I draw on the limited set of published findings, and present new and suggestive data, on these relations with the goal of illustrating the interplay of self-regulation and autobiographical memory.

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Michael D. Kopelman, King’s College London

Michael D Kopelman

Autobiographical Amnesia: Neurological and Psychogenic

Autobiographical memory alludes to personal recollection of past episodes and incidents. In clinical disorders, neurological or psychological, it can be affected in a variety of ways. This presentation will highlight examples, and it will review current explanatory theories.
Retrograde amnesia (RA) is a fascinating phenomenon, referring to loss of memories for autobiographical episodes and/or personal semantic facts which occurred before the onset of a brain disease or injury. In neurological disease, the severity of RA is only loosely associated with the severity of anterograde amnesia, suggesting different underlying mechanisms. There are several main theories of how and why RA occurs, and it will be (politely) suggested that they all have their limitations. The role of a retrieval deficit and age-related differences at encoding will be discussed.
Psychogenic amnesia intrigues the media. It can be ‘global’ or ‘situation-specific’. It is sometimes, not always, associated with loss of the sense of personal identity. A recently published study of 53 cases has highlighted 4 different types of syndrome (or subgroups), and case-examples will be given discussed. The study emphasised the psychosocial circumstances in which the amnesia occurs, and demonstrated different patterns of autobiographical memory loss across the subgroups, and with differential patterns of outcome.
Commonalities and differences across these forms of autobiographical memory will be discussed, and outstanding issues highlighted. 

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Dan P. McAdams, Northwestern University

Dan P McAdams

Early Memories and Narrative Identity in Three American Presidents: Joy, Curiosity, and?

Integrating features of the remembered autobiographical past with the imagined future, narrative identity is the internalized and evolving story a person constructs to explain how he or she came to be the person he is she is becoming.  In narrative identity, the emotional coloring of childhood memories may affirm and foreshadow the values and beliefs that comprise personal ideology, which in turn may provide guidance and justification for a specific motivational agenda in life.  Simply put, emotion, value, and goal-directed action may come together in the life story.  I will examine these proposed thematic linkages by considering the narrative identities displayed by the three most recent U. S. Presidents – George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.  In their early-adult and midlife years, two of these men managed to construct morally coherent and highly redemptive life stories.  Their narrative identities helped to shape their respective presidential agendas.  The third case, however, suggests a disturbing disconnect between life narrative and the self.

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Elaine Reese, University of Otago

Elaine Reese

Making a Life: The Role of Parent-Child Conversations Across Time and Cultures 

The way parents talk with their young children about the past plays an indisputable role in children’s memory. Parents who discuss past events in richer detail have children with stronger and earlier autobiographical memories. Yet it is the interpretation of life events, not simply having early memories, that appears crucial for self-understanding. How do parent-child conversations shape children’s interpretations of life events, culminating in coherent life stories in adolescence? I will reveal the results of a longitudinal study of autobiographical memory and self in a sample of over 50 New Zealand children from ages 1-1/2 to 16 years. My focus will be on the contribution of parent-child conversations to adolescents’ interpretations of critical life events at age 16. I will also discuss how these findings may differ across cultures, especially in non-European cultures that place a stronger emphasis on interpersonal rather than personal narratives for informing the self. 

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Constantine Sedikides, University of Southampton

Constantine Sedikedes

The Future of Nostalgia

Nostalgia is a bittersweet, self-relevant, and social emotion. The content of nostalgic accounts features the self as protagonist, albeit embedded with close others into momentous occasions. Also, nostalgic content entails more expressions of positive than negative affect, and depicts redemption than contamination life scenes. Nostalgia has remarkable implications for one’s future. It promotes an approach (vs. avoidance) orientation. It raises optimism, and it does so by boosting social connectedness (a sense of support, belongingness, and acceptance) and subsequently lifting self-esteem.  It increases creativity, and it does by bolstering openness to experience. It kindles prosociality, such as intentions to donate and actual monetary donating. And it promotes intergroup contact. Far from reflecting escapism from the present, nostalgia potentiates a positive, attainable future.

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Jefferson A. Singer, Connecticut College

Jefferson Singer

Looking Back on Over Twenty-Five Years of Self-Defining Memory Research: What Have We Learned?

This paper provides a systematic examination of more than 100 empirical and theoretical studies of self-defining memories that have been conducted since the first published study appeared in 1991.  The goal of this review is to define the specific contributions that the identification and collection of this form of autobiographical memory has made to our understanding of the relationship of memory and self.  Drawing on multiple fields, including cognitive, social, personality, developmental, neuroscience, and clinical psychology, three distinct but overlapping research domains can be discerned – basic self and identity construction; emotion and goal regulation; and impaired self-memory processes due to psychological disorders.  Across these three domains, a consistent theoretical model of self-defining memory emerges as a unit of self-understanding that integrates affect, meaning, and identity coherence.  The paper concludes by highlighting new findings and clinical applications relevant to self-defining memory research.

Read more about Jefferson A. Singer.