Encoding processes related to specific and overgeneral recall of the autobiographical memories in non-clinical depression

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2007
Güzel, Mehmet Akif
The purpose of the present study was to investigate the overgenerality phenomenon and to draw some inferences on possible encoding problems of autobiographical memories (ABMs) in a non-clinically depressed sample. Eighty-eight university students (25 male, 63 female) participated in the experiment using the Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT; Williams & Broadbent, 1986). The effects of depression level (low or high), cue emotional valences (positive, negative and neutral) and cue number (one or two at each step) on the specificity, overgenerality, and latency of the ABMs recalled were examined. The results showed that the group having high depression scores (Depressed group) was less specific than the group having low depression scores (Non-depressed group) on the specificity levels of the ABMs recalled. Also, the students who were primed with one cue in the AMT were less specific than the students who were primed with two cues simultaneously. The depressed group primed with one cue also recalled less specific ABMs than the non-depressed group primed with two cues; and, the non-depressed group primed with either one cue or two cues in the AMT did not differ in terms of the specificity of the ABMs recalled. Regarding the cue type, the students recalled less specific ABMs as a response to the positive cues than to the neutral cues. However, they did not differ on the specificity of ABMs recalled as a response to the negative and neutral cue words in the AMT. Additionally, the significant interaction between depression level and cue type; cue type and cue number; and, depression level, cue type, and cue number could be summarized with the overall findings that the depressed subjects had the benefit of the two cues priming in the AMT by being more specific on ABMs. For the overgenerality, as a counterpart of the specificity, the results also indicated that the subjects in the depressed group were more overgeneral on the ABM recall than the non-depressed group; and, the simultaneous two cues priming in the AMT had an effect to decrease the overgenerality seen in one cue conditions. The interactions between depression level and cue number, and cue type and cue number on the overgeneral ABM recalls further indicate that the subjects took the benefit of two cues priming with a decrease on overgeneral recall. This benefit of two cues is also seen on the reaction times of specific ABM recalls. Moreover, the subjects reported that they utilized the cues more consecutively than simultaneously and they reported to utilize the first cues more than the second cue when the paired cues were emotional. However, the preference for sequence was almost equal for the neutral-neutral pairs. Supporting the hypotheses of the study, the results suggested that multiple cues in the AMT had an effect to increase the specificity level of the ABMs recalled in the depressed subjects, which was not seen in one-cue conditions. Findings were discussed on the basis of the literature and some proposals were given on the overgenerality of the ABMs by emphasizing the encoding processes.

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Citation Formats
M. A. Güzel, “Encoding processes related to specific and overgeneral recall of the autobiographical memories in non-clinical depression,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2007.