Life-story narratives, chapters, and depression
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The structure of life-story narratives and their component chapters is of central importance to the cognitive representations and communication of autobiographical memory. While evidence points to the hierarchical role of chapters in autobiographical summations and abstractions of periods of time, and life-time periods feature as a fundamental characteristic of the most prominent model of autobiographical memory, few researchers have attempted to examine their existence as unique units of representation, and their impact on the recall of episodic events. The present thesis sets out to establish the nature of lifestories using established methods for life-story narrative and chapter elucidation and a novel paradigm for examining memory recall from within chapters. It does so by contrasting the impact of life story chapters for people with depression against non-depressed groups, and in doing so finds evidence for chapters acting as affective schema for autobiographical periods, and access to episodic events, with an overall raised access for incongruent event representations. The findings of this thesis also indicate that narrative disorder in depression is not reliably present (Studies one and two) and that chapters, while more negative in tone (Studies two and three), may not be structurally different for dysphoric narratives compared to control groups (Study two). The schematic role of chapters in the recall of episodic memories, indicates a tendency in depression to display a negative bias in dissonance reduction between negative chapters and positive events (Study four). This thesis provides evidence that depression is linked to a negative bias in the higher- order chapter level of autobiographical memory, and that due to dissonance reduction processes, and the rehearsal of affectively congruent event-based representations, people with depression may have reduced access to positive material which would be used in mood repair and the creation of positive variation to their life-stories by drawing on specific events.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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