Psykologisk Institut

Dorthe Berntsen

Involuntary autobiographical memories and their relation to other forms of spontaneous thoughts

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Involuntary autobiographical memories are memories of personal events that come to mind spontaneously-that is, with no conscious initiation of the retrieval process. Such spontaneously arising memories were long ignored in cognitive psychology, which generally has focused on controlled and strategic forms of remembering, studied in laboratory settings. Recent evidence shows that involuntary memories of past events are highly frequent in daily life, and that they represent a context-sensitive, and associative way of recollecting past events that involves little executive control. They operate by constraints that favour recent events and events with a distinct feature overlap to the current situation, which optimizes the probability of functional relevance to the ongoing situation. In addition to adults, they are documented in young children and great apes and may be an ontogenetic and evolutionary forerunner of strategic retrieval of past events. Findings suggest that intrusive involuntary memories observed clinically after traumatic events should be viewed as a dysfunctional subclass of otherwise functional involuntary autobiographical memories. Because of their highly constrained, situation-dependent and automatic nature, involuntary autobiographical memories form a distinct category of spontaneous thought that cannot be equated with mind wandering. This article is part of the theme issue 'Offline perception: voluntary and spontaneous perceptual experiences without matching external stimulation'.

TidsskriftPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Antal sider9
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2021

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