Literature review, Psychology memory

Literature review, Psychology memory

In 1000 words you should provide a literature review, which will justify why your chosen topic is of interest and worthy of investigation. In this case my chosen topic is PROJECT M4: AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY. So suggest a research question, based on your literature review, specifying what you would like to investigate. Identify possible independent variables you could manipulate and dependent variables you could measure.
In 500 words describe and explain the methodological and ethical issues your research question raises. Include a discussion on how you could aIDress these: for example, what safeguards will you put in place? Will you use a between ¬or within-participant design?

What TMA 04 assesses:
€¢    your ability to select and use appropriate literature, including module materials and library resources, to plan a research project and produce a research question
€¢    your understanding of the practical and ethical considerations that may arise in conducting an experiment in cognitive psychology.
1.    Choose a project option by reading project booklet 2
2.    Read the recommended papers
3.    Look for 2-4 other relevant journal papers using the OU library
4.    Write a literature review (1000 words)
5.    Devise research question/hypotheses and think about IVs and DV(s)
6.    Consider methodological and ethical issues (500 words)
7.    Download and complete the project proposal form (admin form only)

How to do a literature search
1.    Use keywords, as the online activity suggests
2.    Use Web of Science or another database like PsychInfo to find the recommended papers and see where they have been cited
3.    Read evaluatively and critically
a.    What theoretical issues were tested?
b.    What methods were employed?
c.    What did the findings mean?
d.    Is there evidence to support statements/arguments?
e.    Are there alternative interpretations that fit the data better?
f.    Is there some aspect of the theory that is not clarified?
g.    Are there any methodological/statistical concerns?
h.    Were the methods reliable and justified?
i.    Are the conclusions justified in the light of other research?
j.    Are there suggestions for further exploration?
k.    Are there issues that have not yet been aIDressed?

Writing a literature review
The point of a literature review is to provide a background and rationale for the experiment you propose to carry out, in order to justify it. Therefore the research you review must be relevant to this aim.
1.    You can write this as an essay or as if it were the introduction to a report
2.    Start with a brief description of your topic
3.    Next, outline the relevant parts of the papers you have read, and particularly the questions raised
4.    Make sure that it flows, using linking words, and is not just a list
5.    Show how it leads to your research question

Methodological issues
1.    Design €“ between, within or mixed?
2.    Is counterbalancing needed?
3.    If between or mixed, how will participants be allocated to conditions?
4.    Are there any potential confounding variables?
5.    How long will the experiment take?
6.    How will materials be devised and are there any special considerations eg word frequency?


Key points of Chapter 7                                Dr Alan Pechey
Autobiographical memory and the working self

The chapter starts with a discussion of what autobiographical memory (AM) is. Different examples of AMs are given; some recalled in response to cues, some freely recalled and including examples of self defining memories, flashbulb memories and intrusive memories associated with post traumatic stress disorder (see below). AM is defined as memories which make up the database of the self’. AMs give us a continuity of experience and help us to integrate with others.

The Conway and Pleydell-Pearce (2000) model of AM argues that AMs are complex constructions that typically require conscious effort to retrieve and maintain. A set of executive functions controls this process, a cognitive structure which they refer to as the working self (WS). This involves both one’s conceptions about oneself and one’s current set of active goals (goal hierarchy). It is the WS that manages the construction and retrieval of AMs. For a detailed description of the role of the working self in the construction and retrieval of AMs see section 3.3. This describes interesting work linking personality type to the kind of AMs recalled. For instance McAdams in a series of studies found that individuals with a strong intimacy motivation recalled more memories with intimacy themes, in contrast to individuals with a strong power motivation who produced more AMs with strong themes of power. However it seems possible to me that the personality might also be driving the type of experiences that a person actually has; so the effect might not be one of memory alone. The chapter by Conway on his own theories tells a coherent story but might be lacking in critical appraisal in places.

As the WS changes over one’s lifetime, so will the accessibility of different AMs. The lifespan distribution of recalled AMs is very uneven and typically shows a characteristic pattern. [However, care has to be taken in sampling as, for instance, participants can get stuck’ in a particular period of their lives as the recall of a memory from a particular period activates other memories from that same period.]  The distribution of AMs across the lifespan is discussed in section 2. There are typically very few AMs relating to events that happened before people were 5 years old. This is called childhood amnesia. Many theories have been proposed to explain the phenomenon which relate to cognitive and linguistic development. These theories have however been shown to be problematic as research by Fivush and others has demonstrated that at these early ages children are quite able to form and retrieve AMs. It is only as adults that these memories become inaccessible. There are currently two main contending theories of childhood amnesia. The first is that the working self’s goal hierarchy was so different in early childhood, that the adult WS can no longer access these memories. The other explanation (which follows from the psychodynamic tradition) is that the WS suppresses these early memories because they are so emotionally intense that they might destabilise the adult WS.

Another typical feature of the lifespan distribution is a particular concentration of memories of events occurring between the ages of 10 to 30 years (with an even higher concentration in the period of 15 to 25 years of age). This phenomenon is known as the reminiscence bump. Evidence has not supported theories that these memories are particularly accessible because they are pleasant, very vivid or involve first experiences. Again there are currently two main contending explanations. The first proposed by Rubin (2002) is that this is a period with many novel experiences which is then followed by a period of relative stability. The alternative explanation is that these memories are particularly important in defining the self and helping to bind the WS to reality.

The final feature of the lifespan distribution is a high concentration of recent memories. This is termed the recency effect and applies widely to different forms of memory. Possibly memories simply lose activation with time [unless recalled] and hence older memories have less activation and are not so easily brought to mind. Alternatively some AM researchers have argued that it is changes to the WS with time that make the most recent memories the most accessible (as there is least change to the WS).

AM retrieval is constructive involving the integration of conceptual autobiographical knowledge, generic images and episodic memories. This construction process is facilitated by the organisation of autobiographical knowledge; which Conway argues is hierarchically organised [see Figure 7.2]. At the highest level is one’s overall life story; the set of themes that define one’s identity and tell one’s history. This is made up of several life story schemas; such as work or relationship schemas. A schema has defined slots (e.g. people or places) which can take certain values (e.g. my boss’ or London’). At the highest level each major life story schema is organised in terms of lifetime periods (e.g. at university’). Each lifetime period will have links to associated general events which include single events (e.g. my visit to the zoo’); repeated events (e.g. work meetings’) and extended events (e.g. my holiday in Cornwall’). Both lifetime periods and general events are seen as relating to particular goals and are evaluated in terms of their success in goal achievement. See section 3.1 for more details on these proposed structures.

Conway argues that Tulving’s distinction between episodic and semantic memory is problematic in AM (see section 3.2). He does however maintain the concept of episodic memory, in that he sees certain components of general events (e.g. the film club building’) as being linked to near-experience’ sensory-perceptual details (e.g. a visual image of the building’). He argues that these episodic memory details will soon be lost however unless linked to the semantic AM structure (e.g. to a representation of a general event).

There are two different ways that AMs can be retrieved. The first called generative retrieval is the characteristic way that one generates AMs in response to cues in an AM experiment. This is an effortful process which can take quite a few seconds and involves sampling one’s autobiographical knowledge base and constructing a memory. Initially a retrieval model (e.g. the memory should be about X’ and should involve a particular event) is generated by the action of executive processes and the WS. If the cue directly maps onto the episodic memories associated with a general event, then a specific AM can be retrieved and linked to the WS goals and thereby comes into conscious awareness. If not, then the cue needs to be elaborated and the knowledge base iteratively sampled until stable activation of part of the knowledge base is achieved which meets the necessary criteria.

In other instances, AM retrieval is directly driven by a cue and does not involve intentional retrieval (this is called direct retrieval). However as recollection of AMs will dominate one’s awareness this direct triggering of AMs needs to be controlled; as otherwise one might continuously be distracted from one’s current goals. This control is exercised by the WS which can inhibit an AM from entering awareness. This control process can however break down under certain conditions such as with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Section 4 describes how the AM control systems can break down with PTSD which involves persistent intrusive thoughts and memories [uncontrolled direct retrieval of AMs]. To be classified as having PTSD a person must have experienced a traumatic event (such as experiencing a sexual assault or witnessing a death or threatened death). But it is the response to this that is critical. Typically in cases of PTSD this response is a feeling of intense fear, hopelessness and/or horror. This gives rise to a characteristic set of symptoms including intrusive recurrent memories of the event; a re-experiencing the feelings of the trauma as if the event was happening now; and acute distress at any reminders of the event. Intrusive memories associated with PTSD differ from those associated with other anxiety disorders in that they do not have the normal feeling of the event involving the self in the past, but a feeling that the event is actually happening now. These intrusive memories are also highly sensory; which is characteristic of experience-near episodic memories. PTSD sufferers often learn what cues trigger the re-experience and try to avoid these. These avoidance symptoms are another characteristic of PTSD. Amnesia for some or all of the event is another characteristic; which might arise from the inability to integrate the event into the autobiographical knowledge base; or because of inhibition by the current WS, preventing the memory from attaining conscious awareness. To be classified as suffering from PTSD the systems must be enduring; lasting for at least a month.

Conway argues that the intense emotions created by the situation combined with the inability to control the situation create a fundamental challenge to the goal system of the WS and the event cannot therefore be integrated into autobiographical knowledge. It is this integration which appears to allow the cognitive system control over the memory; an ability to treat this as a memory and not reality (see section 4.5). This lack of integration might explain the amnesia for some parts of the event.  However the WS might encode some aspects of the situation in terms of the active WS goals so that these aspects of the situation appear to be encoded in great perceptual detail. Researchers have started to investigate these hotspots’ (most intense emotional components of the event) which present themselves as intrusive memories; possibly relating to points in the traumatic event  in which the WS was most strongly challenged.

2. THIS LINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT: FROM THIS BOOKLET YOU SHOULD CONSIDER PROJECT M4: AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY (it starts on page 47) THE LITERATURE REVIEW IS BASED ON THIS MOSTLY so please read it carefully. In order to access the booklet you have to sign in in my student home page so enter as a USERNAME: av2693 and as a password: aleka84

3.  again in this link consider only the part of AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY this an example produced from my tutor in order to help us.

4. also please aID 2 more research papers relevant to the topic I have chosen that are not included in chapter 7 or in the booklet above, please give references as well.
5. finally, very important do not produce research questions based on gender as IV or response time as DV.


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