Throughout the past 15 years, researchers have explored self-defining memories within the larger category of autobiographical memories (Conway, Singer, & Tagini, 2004; Singer, 2005; Singer & Salovey, 2003; Wood & Conway, 2006). Other researchers have examined the physiological reactions to various stimuli, some related to autobiographical memory (Gross & Levenson, 1997; Levenson & Gottman, 1983; Philippot, Schaefer, & Herbette, 2003; Schaefer & Philippot, 2005; Schwartz, Weinberger, & Singer, 1981). The present study is the first experiment to investigate the relationship of physiological correlates to self-defining memories. This study had participants generate their own self-defining and autobiographical memories, and recall them, while attached to electrodes measuring heart rate and skin conductance one week later. The current study separated memories into four categories: positive and negative self-defining memories and positive and negative autobiographical memories. Change in skin conductance was greatest for negative self-defining memories. Further results showed that self-defining memories had more words and higher importance than did autobiographical memories pre-recall, and self-defining memories differed in intensity and emotion ratings from autobiographical memories post-recall.
Hess, Rachel K., "The Psychophysiology of Self-Defining Memories" (2009). Psychology Honors Papers. Paper 6.
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