A balanced perspective on autobiographical memory

Conference on autobiographical memory at Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences brings together historically opposed researchers.

2012.08.28 | Julia Rolsted Stacey

Photo: Colourbox.

Historically, researchers who work with autobiographical memory in clinical illnesses such as depression and anxiety have strongly disagreed on the issue of how the mechanisms of memory are to be understood, explains Dorthe Berntsen, Professor at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences at Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences, and director of the basic research centre CON AMORE.

In June, the CON AMORE centre at Aarhus University hosted a conference for some of the world's leading researchers in the field of autobiographical memory and clinical disorders.
Dorthe Berntsen relates that the event was extremely liberating. "We succeeded in bringing together two academically opposed camps of researchers to discuss autobiographical memory from a more balanced perspective than has been achieved previously," she says and continues:

- It was a liberating experience to succeed in encouraging two battling sides to find common ground.

Autobiographical memory
Autobiographical memory is a field that can contribute to understanding many familiar psychological illnesses such as depression.

According to Dorthe Berntsen, the field of research into how memory is to be understood in connection with psychological disorders has long been characterised by deep disagreement.

- For many years, researchers have been discussing the issue of whether particular illness-specific memory mechanisms are necessary to explain why some people develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or whether it is a matter of common mechanisms starting to behave in a dysfunctional manner if the individual is exposed to violent experiences or trauma, she explains.

According to Dorthe Berntsen, research does not support the hypothesis of special memory mechanisms. In her opinion it makes more sense to explain dysfunctional aspects on the basis of standard memory functions.

Facts

  • Dorthe Berntsen is a professor at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, and Director of the Centre for Autobiographical Memory Research – CON AMORE
  • CON AMORE is a basic research centre established under the auspices of the Danish National Research Foundation and is located in the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences.
  • CON AMORE is an interdisciplinary research centre whose purpose is to examine autobiographical memory from a biological to a cultural level.

Contact

Professor Dorthe Berntsen. Foto: Julia Rolsted Stacey, AU Kommunikation, Business and Social Sciences.
Dorthe Berntsen
Professor
Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences and CON AMORE
Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences
Tel.: +45 8716 5868
Email: dorthe@psy.au.dk

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