The Relationship between Autobiographical Self-Focus and Memory Specificity/Overgenerality: Differences between Individuals with and without a Diagnosis of Depression

Michael Bender, María Carrera, Itziar Alonso-Arbiol


Research has revealed that clinical depression is related to reduced specificity and/or overgenerality in autobiographical memory. We set out to investigate this relationship by comparing depressed (n = 40) and non-depressed (n = 40) individuals not only in terms of autobiographical memory specificity/generality, but also in terms of narrative structure. Specificity was assessed with the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT; Williams & Broadbent, 1986) and participants also provided open-ended memories, which were analyzed for autobiographical cognitive complexity (Woike, 1994). Narrative differentiation, as an indicator of self-focus, was negatively related to specificity and positively to overgenerality of particularly negative autobiographical memories – but only in the depressed sample. Relationships were significantly different among non-depressed individuals. Results are discussed in the context of the relation between specificity/overgenerality and self-focus.


Autobiographical Memory; Specificity; Depression; Cognitive Complexity

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