TALE OF THREE FUNCTIONS
focused on different subsets of functions, most hypothesized func- tions fit into one of three categories. These categories are well repre- sented in Pillemer’s (1992) formulation of AM as having directive (planning for present and future behaviors), self (self–continuity, psychodynamic integrity), and communicative (social bonding) functions. To expand this scope, we refer to these three more gener- ally as directive, self, and social functions (Bluck & Alea, 2002).
The Directive Function. The directive function of AM involves us- ing the past to guide present and future thought and behavior. Pillemer (1998) reviews a number of ways in which AM can be direc- tive. For example, Cohen (1989, 1998) has argued that AM can serve as an aid to solving problems and to the development of opinions and attitudes. Baddeley (1987) argues that autobiographical mem- ory allows us to ask new questions of old information in order both to solve problems in the present and to predict future events. Lockhart (1989) offers a similar idea, suggesting that the major function of AM is to provide flexibility in the construction and updating of rules that allow individuals to comprehend the past and to predict future out- comes. Robinson and Swanson (1990) take this idea in a more social direction, arguing that AM helps us to use our own past experience to construct models that allow us to understand the inner world of others and thereby to predict their future behavior. Data tend to be consistent with these ideas: individuals report remembering past events and the lessons they learned from them as useful in guiding present or future behavior (Bluck & Glück, 2004; McCabe, Capron, & Peterson, 1991; Pratt, Arnold, Norris, & Filyer, 1999).
The Self Function. Many theoretical formulations emphasize the function of AM in the continuity of the self (e.g., Bluck & Levine, 1998; Brewer, 1986). While these share a similarity to Pillemer’s (1992) “psychodynamic function” (emphasizing the dynamic emo- tional use of AM), other researchers have not necessarily embraced the psychodynamic aspect. Instead, knowledge of the self in the past and as projected into the future has been seen as a critical type of self–knowledge (Neisser, 1988). For example, Conway (1996) claims that the adequacy of autobiographical knowledge depends on its ability to support and promote continuity and development of the self. Similarly, a hypothesized function of the personal past is to pre- serve a sense of being a coherent person over time (Barclay, 1996). Fivush (1998) describes how this coherent sense of self–over–time develops in young children, and the developmental role of the self