Individual differences in autobiographical memory predict the tendency to engage in spontaneous thoughts

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Abstract

Individual differences in autobiographical memory have become a research area of interest, but little is known about its associations with other individual differences dimensions, such as the tendency to engage in spontaneous cognition. We report two studies examining individual differences in autobiographical memory, as measured by the Autobiographical Recollection Test (ART), in relation to eight trait-like measures of spontaneous thought and, in Study 2, also a measure of fantasy proneness. In Study 1, the ART correlated positively and systematically with six out of eight measures of spontaneous thought, even when controlling for age, gender, and trait positive and negative affect. The two exceptions concerned spontaneous thoughts specifically related to attentional deficits. Study 2 replicated these findings and extended them to a measure of fantasy proneness. The findings demonstrate that people who generally consider their autobiographical memories to be vivid, detailed, relevant, and coherent, report a higher tendency to engage in various forms of spontaneous cognition, including positive constructive daydreaming, spontaneous mind wandering, involuntary mental time travel, and vivid and immersive fantasy. We discuss these findings in terms of the role autobiographical memory plays in spontaneous thoughts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMemory
Volume31
Issue9
Pages (from-to)1134-1146
Number of pages13
ISSN0965-8211
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Keywords

  • Autobiographical memory
  • affectivity
  • autobiographical recollection test
  • individual differences
  • mind wandering
  • spontaneous thought

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