Developments in the functions of autobiographical memory: An advanced review

Farrah Sow, Katinka Dijkstra, Steve M.J. Janssen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlePopular

4 Citations (Scopus)


In this advanced review, the development of the three most commonly used functions of autobiographical memory—directing behavior, social bonding, and self-continuity—and the support they have received in the literature are discussed. Support for this tripartite model often comes from correlational studies that use self-report measures, but participants in these studies may not be aware that they retrieved autobiographical memories to fulfill certain goals. Not only is more experimental research needed to confirm the findings from correlational studies, this kind of research needs to be more rigorous. Moreover, the functions of the tripartite model may not be the only autobiographical memory functions that can be distinguished. For example, there is already substantial support for the emotion-regulation function. Although memories can be used for multiple functions, patterns between aspects of the event (e.g., emotional valence) or memory (e.g., specificity) and their functionality have been found. In addition, individual differences (e.g., cultural background, depression symptoms) and situational factors (e.g., is there a goal that needs to be fulfilled) may regulate the functional deployment of autobiographical memories. Future research should therefore extend its focus on the conditions in which these functions can be observed. This article is categorized under: Psychology > Memory.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1625
JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

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