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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: November 2012

5 - Reflections on autobiographical memory

Summary

I was very pleased to be invited to contribute to this book marking the foundation of a center for the study of autobiographical memory in Aarhus, but somewhat daunted, given that I have not worked in the area for a number of years. I have, however, just written a chapter on the topic in a recent textbook (Baddeley, Eysenck, and Anderson, 2009), but had emerged from my review feeling that the field still seemed somewhat fragmented and atheoretical. This seemed a good opportunity to help celebrate the foundation of a center that explicitly aims to change that perception.

Labels and definitions

I do not subscribe to the view that concepts and theories require precise definition before they can be fruitfully applied. On the contrary, my view of precise definitions is that they are possible only when one has a good understanding of the broad area, and, in the case of autobiographical memory, this is not yet. However, I think that the way in which a concept is labeled can have a major effect on its acceptance and subsequent popularity, an effect that can be positive, but may also lead to confusion if different people use the same labels in different ways. I think this is the case in the study of autobiographical memory.

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