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Int J Aging Hum Dev. 1993;36(1):39-55.

A study of autobiographical memories in depressed and nondepressed elderly individuals.

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  • 1Neuropsychiatric Institute, University of California, Los Angeles.


An autobiographical memory task was used to study memory processes and depression in elderly individuals. Twenty-seven nondepressed and twenty-seven depressed elderly participants recalled thirty memories. Each memory was self-rated for happiness versus sadness and the degree of importance of the event at the time the event occurred (i.e., "then") and looking back on the event ("now"). Nondepressed participants perceived greater positive change in affective tone between "then" and "now" ratings. Depressed participants recalled more memories rated as sad "now" than nondepressed, and perceived negative and positive memories to become more neutral than nondepressed participants. These results are consistent with a mood congruence hypothesis, in that participants recalled more memories affectively consistent with current mood, and a self-enhancement view of reminiscing, such that recalling memories evaluated as happier was associated with less depression.

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