Group Versus Individual Variations in the Narrative Content of College Student Autobiographical Memories

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Autobiographical memories (AM) are a subset of memories that pertain specifically to events in an individual’s own past. Using simple predictor models, this paper perturbed the narrative content of 117 Cornell students’ positive and negative autobiographical memories about parents and peers, exploring whether or not group-level status markers like sex and culture were significant predictors of recall style. Specifically, we wanted to validate or expand upon previous research on group versus individual-level differences in memory. Through mixed models statistical analysis of the 468 memories in our final dataset, we found that group membership accounted for less of the variation in AM recall than expected, with individual-level subject differences being much more pronounced. Of the narrative content variables analyzed, participant sex only significantly predicted three –agency, emotional expressiveness, and chronology– and participant culture/ethnicity only significantly predicted two –redemption and unity. The implications of these findings, as well as the methodological limitations that might have prevented us from parsing more group differences, are discussed. Suggestions for future study replications that might yield more generalizable results are mentioned.

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54 pages


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Autobiographical memory; Cultural differences; Exploratory; Group differences; Individual differences; Narrative content


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Union Local


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Wang, Qi

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Mendle, Jane

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Human Development

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M.A., Human Development

Degree Level

Master of Arts

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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