Autobiographical memory is a type of memory system that consists of recollected episodes from an individual's life and is based on a combination of episodic (personal experiences and specific objects, people, and events experienced at a specific time and place) and semantic (general knowledge and facts about the world) memory. Autobiographical memories are subjective and personal to each person, so the content of one person's autobiography will differ significantly from that of another person.
Characteristics of autobiographical memory that make it unique include its temporal nature, its ability to convey personal experience, and its selective retrieval of information. Memory for autobiographical events occurs in discrete units called "episodes." Episodes are generally defined as any related series of events that share a beginning, middle, and end. For example, if I tell you that John was given a job interview today at 10:00 AM, it would be one episode. If I then told you that he did not get the job, it would be another episode. In reality, both events occurred this morning at 10:00 AM, but they were two separate episodes because they had different outcomes.
Episodes are usually very short, often lasting only for a few minutes. However, some episodes may last for hours or even days. It depends on the context of the event and how much detail someone can recall about it. For example, if I asked you to remember an episode from last week, you could probably remember something that happened around lunchtime on Thursday.
Autobiographical memory is frequently defined as two forms of long-term memory: semantic (knowledge about the self) and episodic (event-specific knowledge connected to prior personal experiences) memory (Tulving, 2002). Although these types of memory are commonly referred to as "autobiographical," this term has different meanings for each type. For example, your semantic self is a collection of facts and concepts related to you as a person - your age, where you live, what your interests are. Your episodic self is a record of who you have been and what you have done - your history of events from your first memory up until now.
Your semantic self will not change much over time because it is based on your personality and internal mental map of the world. Your episodic self changes constantly because you experience new things every day. Episodic memories are temporary by definition since they are connected to specific events that happen only once. However, some episodes may have details about you that remain in your memory even after the event itself has happened. These details form your semantic self. For example, if I ask you how old you are, you can look back at the event of being born and remember that you were X years old on Y November. This fact isn't necessarily true for someone else, but it's important to note that the same episode can be remembered differently by different people due to differences in perception and memory.
Autobiographical memory is separated into two primary categories: episodic memories and semantic memories. Episodic memory remembers time, place, and individuals, but semantic memory remembers generic truths. A recollection of a college graduation ceremony is an example of autobiographical memory. This memory is called an episodic memory because you remember when and where you graduated, as well as who attended the ceremony.
Episodic memories are also known as personal memories because they are strictly about yourself and your experiences. Semantic memories are general knowledge that applies to many people or events. For example, most people can recall what happened in World War II, but only some can tell you exactly how their great-grandparents' marriage came to be celebrated with a wedding anniversary; this memory is called semantic because it is general knowledge that applies to many things.
An autobiographical memory is one that is extremely close to your core identity. Your name, your address, the date you were born... these are all semantic memories because they are facts that apply to many people. An autobiographical memory would be something that remembers an incident from your past that is so unique and important to you that it becomes a part of your core identity—for example, if you had a brother who died when you were young, then remembering this event would be an autobiographical memory.
4.2.2 Personal reminiscences Memory for one's personal history is referred to as autobiographical memory (Robinson, 1976). Examples might include childhood recollections, the first time learning to drive a car, or even one's Social Security number or home location. Autobiographical memory is divided into three categories: episodic, semantic, and procedural.
Episodic memory is defined as our immediate experience, what we know now from direct perception or sensory experience. It is what makes us unique individuals and distinguishes us from other creatures. Episodic memory allows us to remember events that have recently taken place or will soon take place - such as what you see, hear, smell, taste, feel when you walk down the street, etc. Episodic memory also allows us to remember specific places and things that we have seen or done before - these are called "episodes." For example, if I ask you to remember an episode that took place in Boston, Massachusetts, about five years ago, you would likely be able to tell me the name of the hotel where it happened, how it made you feel at the time, and so on. This is because episodes are stored in your episodic memory.
Semantic memory is general knowledge that we learn throughout our lives. For example, when you walk into a room, you make certain assumptions based on past experiences with rooms like this one.
Memory is crucial in the establishment of identity and the development of a good sense of self. As a kid grows and encounters new things, a component of the brain constructs a story out of these encounters, and over time, a sense of self emerges. This is referred to as autobiographical memory (AM). The more AM objects that exist, the more likely it is that a unique person existed who possessed those objects.
When someone has amnesia, they lack any personal history because everything about their past life was forgotten when they lost their memory. In some cases, patients with amnesia are able to remember specific dates from early in life, but not much beyond that. They may recognize themselves in photographs or through witness reports, but cannot recall any details about their childhood or present life. These individuals are said to have selective amnesia.
In other cases, patients with amnesia can't even identify themselves in photos. They may ask questions like "Where is this place?" or "Who's face is on this stamp?" but have no idea how they got there or what happened earlier in life. These people are called anamestic (without memory). Anamestic patients often complain about difficulties remembering appointments, but otherwise seem normal. They may even appear to have a good knowledge of current events through listening to news stories or watching TV.