The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories

Haciomeroglu F. B. E., MUTLUTÜRK A.



Researchers define autobiographical memory as a self-related memory system guided by the current goals and motivations of individuals. Social roles determine the behavior of individuals in specific contexts according to social position (e.g., student and friend). Research suggests that social roles may be related to different goals and motivations. To date, studies that address the effects of social roles on autobiographical memory are very few, and these studies mainly focus on memory themes. Moreover, research that investigates whether or not and how social roles impact the retrieval of autobiographical memory is lacking. To address this research gap, the current study aims to examine the effects of social roles (i.e., being a student and a friend) on the contents, functions, and phenomenological characteristics of autobiographical memory. Participants (n = 106) report two memories related to the friendship and studentship roles, respectively, and evaluate each memory in terms of functions, phenomenological characteristics, and centrality to the self. The results demonstrate that friend and student memories differed in terms of content, function, and emotional valence. In addition, friend memories contain more relational themes, carry more positive emotions, serve the self and social functions more, and depict a more central place in the lives of individuals compared with student memories. The study also observes that student memories focused more on the theme of success/failure. Although student memories also contain a number of relational themes, the relationships established with authority predominate in these memories. These findings suggest that social roles, goals, and motivations that underlie these roles may drive the remembrance of people of their autobiographical memory.