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Memory. 2009 Jul;17(5):557-76. doi: 10.1080/09658210902960211. Epub 2009 Jun 4.

Specific and general autobiographical knowledge in adults with autism spectrum disorders: the role of personal goals.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, London SE146NW, UK.


Autobiographical knowledge is stored hierarchically, at both specific and general levels of representation. It has also been proposed that the self is the structure around which autobiographical memories are organised. The current series of studies assessed whether the autobiographical memory difficulties observed in adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) could be due to problems in using the self as an effective memory cue. A series of cueing paradigms were used to assess the accessibility of both specific and general autobiographical knowledge relating to (i) currently pursued goals (either high or low in self-concordance) and (ii) goals that participants were not currently pursuing. Results demonstrated that while event-specific knowledge was impaired in the ASD group, general event knowledge appeared relatively intact. Moreover, while both event-specific and general event knowledge were organised around goals of the self in control participants, a corresponding relationship was only observed for general event knowledge in the ASD group.

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