The role of working memory capacity in autobiographical retrieval: Individual differences in strategic search

Nash Unsworth, Gregory J. Spillers, Gene Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Remembering previous experiences from one's personal past is a principal component of psychological well-being, personality, sense of self, decision making, and planning for the future. In the current study the ability to search for autobiographical information in memory was examined by having college students recall their Facebook friends. Individual differences in working memory capacity manifested itself in the search of autobiographical memory by way of the total number of friends remembered, the number of clusters of friends, size of clusters, and the speed with which participants could output their friends' names. Although working memory capacity was related to the ability to search autobiographical memory, participants did not differ in the manner in which they approached the search and used contextual cues to help query their memories. These results corroborate recent theorising, which suggests that working memory is a necessary component of self-generating contextual cues to strategically search memory for autobiographical information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-176
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012



  • Autobiographical memory
  • Individual differences
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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