Overgeneral Autobiographical Memory in Healthy Young and Older Adults: Differential Age Effects on Components of the Capture and Rumination, Functional Avoidance, and Impaired Executive Control (CaRFAX) Model

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The CaRFAX model (Williams et al., 2007) has been used to explain the causes of overgeneral autobiographical memory (OGM; the difficulty to retrieve specific autobiographical memories), a cognitive phenomenon generally related with different psychopathologies. This model proposes 3 different mechanisms to explain OGM: capture and rumination (CaR), functional avoidance (FA) and impaired executive functions (X). However, the complete CaRFAX model has not been tested in nonclinical populations. This study aims to assess the usefulness of the CaRFAX model to explain OGM in 2 healthy samples: a young sample and an older sample, to test for possible age-related differences in the underlying causes of OGM. A total of 175 young (age range: 19–36 years) and 175 older (age range: 53–88 years) participants completed measures of brooding rumination (CaR), functional avoidance (FA), and executive tasks (X). Using structural equation modeling, we found that memory specificity is mainly associated with lower functional avoidance and higher executive functions in the older group, but only with executive functions in young participants. We discuss the different roles of emotional regulation strategies used by young and older people and their relation to the CaRFAX model to explain OGM in healthy people.

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