UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Characteristics underlying vivid autobiographical memories Enright, Corinne S.


The following thesis reviews literature relevant to vivid autobiographical memories. In particular, attention is paid the theoretical debate over whether a special memory mechanism is required to explain the existence of vivid memories (VMs). The three experiments presented in this thesis addressed four main questions. First, are some life-events are more likely to be vividly recalled than others? Second, can the "Now Print" special memory mechanism theory proposed by Brown and Kulik (1977) explain the existence of VMs? Third, can ordinary memory theories explain the existence of VMs? Fourth what aspects of distinctiveness allow the memory system to differentiate between recall of events in a vivid versus non-vivid manner? The first question was explored by categorizing reported memories into thematic clusters and comparing the percentage of VMs falling into each category with a control group of readily available memories in Experiment 1, and to a control group of non-VMs in Experiment 2. Both experiments found that the percentage of VMs reported for injurious and life-threatening events was significantly higher in the VM groups than in either control group. The second question was addressed by examining the relationships between vividness and the two primary factors (consequentiality and affective arousal) that Brown and Kulik proposed as triggers for the special mechanism. Although both of these factors were significantly correlated with vividness, the nature of the relationship between these factors and vividness was not found to be of the discontinuous and necessary nature required by the "Now Print" model. Further, the relationship between consequentially and vividness was found in Experiment 2 to be explainable in terms of rehearsal. In order to address the third question, subjects were asked, in both Experiments 2 and 3, to rate their memories on scales which indexed factors generally thought to underlie superior memory performance (rehearsal and arousal). Each of these factors were found to be significantly correlated with vividness, however, they could not explain a great deal of the variance in vividness ratings. The fourth issue addressed in this thesis, is whether distinctiveness of certain aspects of the event serve to differentiate between well-remembered non-VMs and well-remembered VMs. Distinctiveness of affective and cognitive aspects of the event were found to be significantly associated with vividness of recall, whereas, other measures of distinctiveness were not. Also discussed in this thesis are the relationship between event pleasantness and vivid recall, sex differences and content effects.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.