‘I remember therefore I am, and I am therefore I remember’: Exploring the contributions of episodic and semantic self-knowledge to strength of identity

Authors


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Catherine Haslam, School of Psychology, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QG, UK (e-mail: c.haslam@exeter.ac.uk).

Abstract

The present research explores the relationship between the two components of autobiographical memory – episodic and semantic self-knowledge – and identity strength in older adults living in the community and residential care. Participants (N= 32) completed the autobiographical memory interview and measures of personal identity strength and multiple group memberships. Contrary to previous research, autobiographical memory for all time periods (childhood, early adulthood, and recent life) in the semantic domain was associated with greater strength in personal identity. Further, we obtained support for the hypothesis that the relationship between episodic self-knowledge and identity strength would be mediated by knowledge of personal semantic facts. However, there was also support for a reverse mediation model indicating that a strong sense of identity is associated with semantic self-knowledge and through this may enhance self-relevant recollection. The discussion elaborates on these findings and we propose a self-knowledge and identity model (SKIM) whereby semantic self-knowledge mediates a bidirectional relationship between episodic self-knowledge and identity.

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