TALE OF THREE FUNCTIONS
a reliable tool for measuring the self–reported functions of AM across the adult lifespan.
More generally, future research is needed to address the many questions left about AM, as it operates at the interface of cognition and social process. In line with the questions raised by Skowronski and Walker (2004), future studies need to address the relative impor- tance of the social and non–social functions of memory, the ways in which social processes might both help and hinder the functions that memory serves, and how the cognitive and phenomenological char- acteristics of memories affect their presentation in social contexts. Pasupathi (2001) has discussed the interplay of social and memory processes, pointing out that how we talk about and retell memories, and who we have as listeners, may affect how memories are con- structed, reconstructed and recalled over time. Of course, this ulti- mately would affect the functions that those memories serve.
Our own theoretical work (Alea, & Bluck, 2003) also addresses AM as a cognition occurring in social context. In an effort to stimulate and guide empirical work, particularly within a functional framework, we developed a conceptual model of the social functions of autobio- graphical memory across the lifespan. The model delineates the pro- cesses and variables involved when AMs are shared to serve social functions. Components of the model include: lifespan contextual in- fluences, the qualitative and cognitive characteristics of memory (emotionality and level of detail recalled), the speaker’s characteris- tics (age, gender, and personality), the familiarity and similarity of the listener to the speaker, the level of responsiveness during the memory-sharing process, and the nature of the social relationship in which the memory-sharing occurs (valence and length of the rela- tionship). We argue that each of these components influences both the type of social function served (e.g., intimacy, empathy) and the extent to which social functions are adaptively served. In short, cur- rent models and theoretical work in the recent literature (Alea & Bluck, 2003; Pasupathi, 2001; Skowronski & Walker, 2004) offer a rich array of possibilities for empirically examining the functions of AM in social context.
Exploring AM from a functional perspective is necessary if we are to embrace the ecological roots from which this field has sprung. In the current work, we have complemented theory by presenting an em-