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The role of metamemory in autobiographical memory performance in dysphoric individuals

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posted on 23.05.2021, 12:01 by Matthew James King
Autobiographical memory (AM) performance in individuals with depressive symptoms has repeatedly been shown to be overgeneral (OGM) in nature, and characterized by summaries of repeated events or long periods of time rather than a single event tied to a unique spatial and temporal context. The present body of work was designed to address the metamnemonic aspects of AM performance in dysphoric individuals, with the underlying motivation being that OGM may not be a unique phenomenon specific to depression or AM, and that it may reflect a more general pattern of memory impairment. The studies presented herein examine various aspects of metamemory and other memory processes that may offer a parsimonious account of OGM as poor event memory in general, rather than a specific standalone finding. In Study 1 several metamnemonic processes were investigated using a quantity-accuracy profile approach. Here, the results showed that performance between dysphoric and non-dysphoric participants was nearly indistinguishable on measures of calibration, resolution, grain-size setting, and criterion setting, suggesting that these aspects of metamemory are intact in dysphoria for immediately tested material. Study 2 examined whether it is possible to “create” OGMs by employing a delay manipulation for both autobiographical (3 day delay) and laboratory-based events (7 day delay). Indeed, the results from this study showed that the performance on both tasks declines for both groups, but that this effect was of a greater magnitude in the dysphoric group. Critically, no differences emerged for immediately tested information. Finally, Study 3 examined the role of working memory and memory search strategies in the recollection of autobiographically relevant information. The results from Study 3 showed that dysphoric individuals may engage in a less organized search strategy than non-dysphoric participants as exhibited by a tendency to switch set in the midst of thematically related information. Taken as a whole, these data indicate that OGM may be attributable to deficits in memory search strategies in conjunction with memories that may be more prone to decay and/or forgetting, suggesting that OGM may not be a depression-specific phenomenon, but rather the downstream deficit of degraded memory representation.





Doctor of Philosophy



Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


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Psychology (Theses)