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Who am I? The relationship between the self and memory in psychosis

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Vol. I: Systematic literature review & empirical research project. 
A systematic review of studies examining autobiographical memory in people with bipolar disorder
Autobiographical memory (AM) is the aspect of memory concerned with the recollection of personally experienced past events. Recent years have seen an increase in research demonstrating that disruptions to normal autobiographical processes play an important role in the onset and maintenance of emotional disorders. The aim of this review was to systematically identify studies that describe the features of AM in people with bipolar disorder. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first review of its type. A systematic search yielded seventeen studies that met inclusion criteria. Findings suggest that there is a deficit in the specificity of episodic autobiographical memory alongside relative preservation of other AM features, such as, autobiographical knowledge. Findings point towards the potential utility of cognitive remediation interventions to improve AM in people with bipolar disorder, yet additional research is necessary to clarify the mechanisms upon which such interventions would operate.

Vol. II: Clinical case studies & service related project. 
Who am I? Exploring the relationship between the self and autobiographical memory in people with psychosis
One long-standing theory of psychosis is that it represents a disturbance to the self. In other conditions, impairment in autobiographical memory (AM) has been cited as central to maintaining a disrupted and disordered sense of self. The present research tested the hypothesis that if there is a relationship between the self and AM in psychosis, then recall of an AM should influence the accessibility of self-statements, as has been shown in participants without psychosis. Forty-two people with psychosis took part in the present study; half gave a description of an autobiographical memory and half gave a description of a control topic with no relevance to the self. Next, participants completed the I Am Fluency Task, in which they generated as many self-defining statements as possible within a given time. Measures were also included to explore the relationship between memory and other aspects of the self, as well as between the self, AM and psychological well-being. Findings showed that people with psychosis were able to generate self-statements and were most likely to conceptualise themselves in relation to positive trait self-knowledge, yet there was no benefit of AM recall on the accessibility of self-statements. Findings lend support to the idea that the process of grounding the self in AM might be disrupted in psychosis.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Nov 2018


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