TALE OF THREE FUNCTIONS
related studies, Hyman and Faries (1992) explored the functions of AM. In one study, individuals were asked to report and describe past events that they had talked about often with others. In the second study, individuals generated autobiographical memories to cue words and described previous times when they had thought or talked about the memory. The results from the first study revealed that individuals talk about memories in order to share experiences, provide information and advice, or to describe themselves to others. The results from the second study suggested that some memories are used for private self functions (not shared with others) and some are used to inform others about one’s self and life. The authors con- cluded that memory plays both self and social functions but that little support for the directive function was evident in their data.
Walker and colleagues report similar data using a somewhat dif- ferent framework (Walker et al., 2003). In two studies, participants listed several autobiographical events that had occurred within the last six months. They then estimated the number of times that they had rehearsed each event for one of several reasons. Alhough the au- thors refer to these as reasons for rehearsal, they also might be thought of as functions of recalling memories. As in Hyman and Faries’ (1992) research, in both studies the most frequent reason that people rehearsed events (recalled or retold memories) was for the purpose of talking to others (i.e., social function). Other reasons for thinking or talking about memories were non–social, including recalling the event’s details or associated emotions.
A more recent study used a different (i.e., not self–report) method to examine the functions of AM (Pasupathi et al., 2002). In this work, middle–aged and older adult married couples were asked to discuss past pleasant and unpleasant topics. Couples’ conversations were then coded for the functions of AM that emerged during these dis- cussions. The functions of AM previously identified in the literature, such as using the past during conversations for planning and prob- lem solving (directive), to explain oneself to others (self), and for per- suasive reasons (social), were evidenced in spontaneous speech in these couples’ conversations.
Because of the widespread theoretical and interpretive use of the concept of function, in combination with the dearth of empirical work, we designed the following study to begin examining the use of AM to serve directive, self, and social functions in everyday life. This might have been done in a variety of more sophisticated manners,