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Cue generation and memory construction in direct and generative autobiographical memory retrieval

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Celia Harris, Akira Robert O'Connor, John Sutton

School/Research organisations


Theories of autobiographical memory emphasise effortful, generative search processes in memory retrieval. However recent research suggests that memories are often retrieved directly, without effortful search. We investigated whether direct and generative retrieval differed in the characteristics of memories recalled, or only in terms of retrieval latency. Participants recalled autobiographical memories in response to cue words. For each memory, they reported whether it was retrieved directly or generatively, rated its visuo-spatial perspective, and judged its accompanying recollective experience. Our results indicated that direct retrieval was commonly reported and was faster than generative retrieval, replicating recent findings. The characteristics of directly retrieved memories differed from generatively retrieved memories: directly retrieved memories had higher field perspective ratings and lower observer perspective ratings. However, retrieval mode did not influence recollective experience. We discuss our findings in terms of cue generation and content construction, and the implication for reconstructive models of autobiographical memory.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)204-216
Number of pages13
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Early online date21 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

    Research areas

  • Autobiographical memory, Direct retrieval, Generative retrieval, Visuo-spatial perspective, Recollective experience, Memory reconstruction

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