What is it about?

Narrating implies a deep transformation of memories because these are changed in an overt form of language addressed to others.The purpose of this study is to explore the link between autobiographical memories and personal narratives and to assess whether the emotions present in memories are maintained or transformed when memories are narrated. In a Memory Fluency Task a total of 72 Italian undergraduates (35 males and 37 females) were asked to recall memories from their last period of life (from adolescence to present), to select one of them and to choose the emotions connected to this memory from an eleven-item list. Then, they were requested to write this memory in detail and again to select the emotions connected to the narrative from the same list of emotions. The emotions were distinguished as simple positive, simple negative, simple neutral, and complex (positive and negative). The results showed, on the whole, that participants expressed more emotions and a greater number of complex emotions in narratives than in memories. The authors interpret these results using a Vygotskyan frame of reference and considering the narratives as a form of external speech that makes memories more explicit, more complex and richer from an emotional point of view.

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Why is it important?

This study is an effort to make a distinction between autobiographical memory and autobiographical narrative and to describe their reciprocal influences. This is an important point because rarely this distinction made while it is important to do in order to be able to understand the effects of recalling and those of narrating


The importance of this study is that of using the Vygotskyan frame of reference in considering the narratives as a form of external speech that makes memories more explicit.

Prof andrea smorti
University of Florence

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This page is a summary of: How emotional content of memories changes in narrating, Narrative Inquiry, December 2015, John Benjamins, DOI: 10.1075/ni.25.1.03fio.
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