ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2014, Vol. 22 ›› Issue (2): 269-278.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2014.00269

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Functions, Characteristics, and Theoretical Explanations of Involuntary Autobiographical Memories

QU Xiaolan;ZHONG Yiping;YANG Qingsong;MENG Hong   

  1. (1 Department of Psychology, Hunan Normal University, Changsha 410081, China) (2 Department of Education and Science, Hunan First Normal University, Changsha 410205, China) (3 Mental Health Education Center, Hunan Agriculture University, Changsha 410128, China)
  • Received:2013-07-08 Online:2014-02-15 Published:2014-02-15
  • Contact: ZHONG Yiping


Involuntary autobiographical memories (IAMs) are memories of personal experiences that come to mind spontaneously—that is, pop into one’s mind with no preceding attempt at retrieval. As a basic, universal mode of remembering, IAMs may serve directive and self functions. In contrast to voluntary autobiographical memories (VAMs), the characteristics of IAMs are: being based on associations and direct retrieval in a bottom-up manner, involving more positive events and rehearsing less. Meanwhile, IAMs differ from VAMs by being more specific. Several theories about retrieval mechanisms of IAMs were presented, such as theories of Episodic Reminding, Cue-priming, Direct Retrieval and Conceptual Associations. Future research should focus on the following aspects: to test and verify the directive and self functions of IAMs, to systemize the research, to integrate the theories of IAMs into those of autobiographical memories, and to develop the cross-cultural research.

Key words: involuntary autobiographical memories, voluntary autobiographical memories, directive functions, Direct Retrieval Theory, conceptual associations