BLUCK ET AL.
function has been extended to describe the emergence of the life story in adolescence (Habermas & Bluck, 2000; McAdams, 1985).
Some have argued that autobiographical knowledge may be espe- cially important when the self is in adverse conditions that required self–change (Robinson, 1986). Regardless of imminent challenges, however, self functions, such as emotion regulation (Pasupathi, 2003) and self–concept preservation and enhancement (Wilson & Ross, 2003), have been suggested as normative and useful aspects of self–regulation across adulthood (Cohen, 1998).
The Social Function. The importance of AM in developing, main- taining, and nurturing social bonds has been noted repeatedly (e.g., Nelson, 1993; Pillemer, 1998) and even tied to potential evolutionary adaptivity (Neisser, 1988). The most basic social function AM serves is to provide material for conversation, thus facilitating social inter- action (Cohen, 1998). Sharing personal memories makes one’s con- tribution to conversations more believable and persuasive (Pillemer, 1992). Autobiographical memory also may allow us to better under- stand and empathize with others (Cohen, 1998). For instance, shar- ing personal memories can engage the listener and elicit empathic responses, particularly if the listener responds with a personal mem- ory of a similar experience (Pillemer, 1992). Providing others with in- formation about one’s self is another function that memory serves in initiating new social relationships (Cohen, 1998). The importance that AM serves for social bonding is highlighted by the fact that so- cial relationships can suffer when episodic remembering is impaired (Robinson & Swanson, 1990). Note that memories can be shared with those who did or did not take part in the remembered event: sharing AMs with someone who was not present provides the listener with information about one’s self, while sharing memories with someone who also was present can serve an intimacy or bonding function (Fivush, Haden, & Reese, 1996).
A TALE OF THREE FUNCTIONS: THE CURRENT STUDY
The three broad functions outlined above were derived by examin- ing theoretical work, as well as interpretations and speculations found in the introductions and discussions of empirical articles on AM. The intuitive and theoretical appeal of the three functions is clear. Only three projects, however, have examined the functions of AM empirically (Hyman & Faries, 1992; Pasupathi, Lucas, & Coombs, 2002; Walker, Skowronski, Gibbons, & Vogl, 2003). In two