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"A Vision from the Past:The Accuracy of Autobiographical Memory"
A Vision from the Past:The Accuracy of Autobiographical Memory
Arianna Escobar
Autobiographical memory is not as reliable and accurate as most people think. In fact, autobiographical memory can be fallible, incomplete and susceptible to external factors. The paradigm, however, is that people are most likely to trust themselves and their own memories more than anything else and will generally stick to their own story, even in the face of contrary evidence.

Autobiographical memories are specific, long-lasting and generally carry a great deal of personal significance. Memory for events is the largest component of autobiographical memory and is comprised of three separate but related domains, (1) memory for specific events that have happened to you, (2) memory for general events, which gives you a broad sequence of actions in an event, and (3) a generic summary of your life, which enables you to answer basic questions someone might ask about you to get to know you better. Accessing this information is generally accomplished by entering the event memory at the general-event level, although the information is at the specific-event level.

Over the past several years, there has been an increase in the number of cases of adults undergoing psychotherapy claiming to have recovered long-repressed memories of sexual abuse at the hands of parents or other family members. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to determine whether and in what sense these types of individual memories are true or false. The extreme emotional stress of both the patients and their families highlights the importance memory plays in our lives, regardless of accuracy.

One category of autobiographical memory, known as flashbulb memory, is exceptionally vivid. Flashbulb memory is the memory for a situation in which a person first learned of a very surprising and emotionally arousing event. This typically involves memories of events of national or international significance, such as the assassination of President Kennedy or Dr. Martin...

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