Colloquia - “A Comparison of Autobiographical Memories to Memories from Fictional Works”

Elizabeth J. Marsh, Ph.D. Department of Psychology & Neuroscience Duke University


Autobiographical memories are traditionally defined as memories of specific events from one’s personal past. But much research shows that people can also vividly remember events that never happened, hold memories that they believe not to be true, and simulate the future – leading to an expansion in our understanding of the dimensions and functions of memory. In this talk, I will argue that we consider expanding this group to include memories of fictional events (e.g., from novels, short stories, films).  I will describe how methods for studying autobiographical memories are easily adapted to study memories of events from works of fiction. I will present data comparing the two types of memories on their phenomenology, functions, and use in simulations.  Overall, the results highlight how memories of fiction are products of the same underlying system as autobiographical memories, with similar properties and functions.  I will conclude with a brief discussion of whether fiction is a deeply coded psychological property.


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