Brief report: Collecting self-defining memories outside therapy

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The aim of this study was to test the Self-Defining Memory Task (SDM Task)—i.e., the possibility to retrieve personally meaningful memories in an experimental context.


A sample of young adults (N = 36) were asked to recall personal memories in response to different sets of instructions: self-defining memory instructions versus detailed/non-detailed autobiographical memory instructions. Participants' subjective ratings of memory qualities and behavioural measures were considered, such as latency and narrative duration times.


Self-defining memories were rated as more important and emotionally intense compared to other autobiographical memories. The use of detailed memory instructions, however, increased the time of retrieval and the duration of the narrative, eliciting more remote memories, compared to non-detailed instructions.


The SDM Task seemed to be more likely to elicit the personally meaningful memories that might be shared with a significant other or in a therapeutic context. Research in autobiographical memory processes constitutes valuable material for clinical psychologists.

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