Vicarious and autobiographical memory: exploring associations with mood, identity and meaning-making

Pond, Emily S. (2020) Vicarious and autobiographical memory: exploring associations with mood, identity and meaning-making. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Vicarious memories are memories that people have in reference to events that they have not directly experienced; rather, they heard them secondhand. Previous studies of vicarious memory have predominantly focused on vicarious trauma and intergenerational narratives. There are few studies that have specifically examined non-traumatic vicarious memories beyond intergenerational narratives. The purpose of this study was to contribute new information to the memory literature regarding vicarious memory reports. University students (N = 142) completed an in-person interview in which they recalled four memories: a highly positive personal memory, a highly negative personal memory, a highly positive vicarious memory and a highly negative vicarious memory. Participants also completed questionnaires regarding identity development (Ego Identity Process Questionnaire), identity distress (Identity Distress Survey) and psychological distress (Depression Anxiety Stress Questionnaire 21). Personal and vicarious memory reports were compared and contrasted in terms of various memory qualities, memory functions, event centrality and the ways in which participants made meaning from the events. The results indicate that vicarious and personal memory reports share many phenomenological and functional properties. Although to a lesser degree than personal memories, vicarious memories do influence decision-making and problem-solving. A particularly important function of vicarious memory is enhancing intimacy. Furthermore, participants endorsed vicarious memories as a reference point for interpreting other life experiences. Young adults create meaning about themselves from highly emotional vicarious memories, and they do so in a pattern that parallels meaning-making of highly emotional personal memories. Current models of episodic memory only include events that individuals have directly experienced. The current study adds to a growing body of literature, which suggests that current models of episodic memory are too restrictive and should expand to include vicarious memory reports.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 14338
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 135-157).
Keywords: vicarious memory, autobiographical memory, episodic memory, narratives, autobiographical reasoning, psychological distress, identity development, self-event connections, identity distress
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Psychology
Science, Faculty of > Psychology
Date: October 2020
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Autobiographical memory; Memory--Social aspects.

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