Research Article


DOI :10.26650/SP2022-1167944   IUP :10.26650/SP2022-1167944    Full Text (PDF)

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

F. Büşra Erbil HacıömeroğluAysu Mutlutürk

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.

DOI :10.26650/SP2022-1167944   IUP :10.26650/SP2022-1167944    Full Text (PDF)

Sosyal Rollerin Otobiyografik Bellek Üzerindeki Etkileri: Arkadaşlık ve Öğrencilik Anılarının İçeriği, İşlevleri ve Fenomenolojisi

F. Büşra Erbil HacıömeroğluAysu Mutlutürk

Otobiyografik bellek, bireylerin şu andaki amaç ve güdülenmeleri tarafından yönlendirilen, benlikle ilişkili bir bellek sistemi olarak ele alınmaktadır. Benliğin bir parçası olan sosyal roller ise bireyin sosyal konumuna bağlı olarak (örn., öğrenci veya arkadaş) belirli bir bağlamda nasıl davranması gerektiğini belirler. Sosyal rollerin farklı amaçlar ve güdülenmelerle ilgili olabileceği ileri sürülmektedir. Bugüne kadar sosyal rollerin otobiyografik bellek üzerindeki etkileri ile ilgili çok az çalışma yapılmıştır ve bu çalışmalar sadece bellek temalarına odaklanmıştır. Ancak sosyal roller bağlamında hatırlanan otobiyografik anıların işlevlerine, fenomenolojik özelliklerine ve kimlikle olan bağlantılarına yönelik bir çalışma yapılmamıştır. Bu çalışmanın amacı, arkadaş ve öğrenci rolleriyle ilişkili otobiyografik anıların içerdikleri hâkim temaları, bellek işlevlerini, fenomenolojik özelliklerini ve kimlikle bağlantılarını incelemektir. Bu amaçla katılımcılardan (n = 106), biri arkadaş rolü diğeri öğrenci rolü ile ilişkili iki anı yazmaları ve her bir anıyı işlevleri, fenomenolojik özellikleri ve anının benliğe merkeziliği bakımından değerlendirmeleri istenmiştir. Bulgular, arkadaş ve öğrenci rolüyle ilişkili anıların temaları, bellek işlevleri ve taşıdıkları duygusal değerlik bakımından birbirinden farklılaştığını ortaya koymuştur. Arkadaş rolüyle ilgili anıların öğrencilik anılarına kıyasla daha yüksek sıklıkta ilişkisel (örn., arkadaşlık, romantik ya da aile ilişkisiyle ilgili) tema barındırdığı, daha olumlu duygularla hatırlandığı, benlik ve sosyal işlevlere daha fazla hizmet ettiği ve bireylerin hayatında daha merkezi olan deneyimleri içerdiği bulunmuştur. Öğrenci rolüyle ilişkili anıların ise daha çok başarı/başarısızlık temasına odaklı olduğu gözlemlenmiştir. Öğrencilik rolünde ilişkisel içerikli anılar olsa da bu anılarda otorite (örn., öğretmen) ile kurulan ilişkiler ağır basmaktadır. Bu bulgular, farklı sosyal rollerin ve bu sosyal rollerle ilgili farklı amaç ve güdülenmelerin (örn., içsel ve dışsal güdülenme) insanların otobiyografik anılarını nasıl hatırladıklarını yönlendirebileceğine işaret etmektedir.


EXTENDED ABSTRACT


Autobiographical memory may be constructed to reflect individual’s needs, goals, and motives at the time of encoding and retrieval (Conway & Pleydell-Pearce, 2000). This memory may enable individuals to obtain information about the self by remembering previous experiences and to develop and maintain self-concept (Bluck et al., 2005; Brewer, 1986). Selfconcept, which is closely related to autobiographical memory, contains various information, such as age, gender, physical characteristics, goals, attitudes, beliefs, and values, including social roles (Borden & Horowitz, 2008). By definition, social roles are norms that determine the behavior of an individual within certain contexts according to one’s social position (Hare, 2003; Sarbin & Allen, 1968). An individual may play many social roles throughout life such as being a friend, student, employer, sibling, or parent. However, these roles may differ in terms of goals and the direction to which these goals direct an individual (Sheldon & Elliot, 2000). As a part of the self, social roles determine the expected behavior of individuals in specific contexts according to social position (e.g., student and friend). For example, researchers find that the friendship role is inherently rewarding and associated with intrinsic motivation, while external rewards, such as grades and academic achievement, frequently motivate the student role (Sheldon & Elliot, 2000). Given that social roles are associated with different goals and motivations, and autobiographical memory is recalled in line with such goals and motivations, this study expects that potential links exist between social roles and the recall of autobiographical memory.

To the best of our knowledge, very few studies to date address the effects of social roles on autobiographical memory, and these studies mainly highlight memory themes (Nakash et al., 2001). Moreover, no research investigates whether or not and how social roles impact the retrieval of autobiographical memory. For this reason, the current study aims to explore the potential effects of social roles (i.e., being a student and a friend) on the contents, functions, phenomenological characteristics, and centrality of autobiographical memory.

Method

Data were collected using an online questionnaire. The participants were undergraduate students (n = 106; M(age) = 20.90, SD(age) = 3.33) who reported two memories related to the

friendship (friend memory) and studentship (student memory) roles, respectively. They then evaluated each memory in terms of function using the Thinking About Life Experiences scale,

of phenomenological characteristics using the Autobiographical Memory Questionnaire, and of centrality to oneself and life using the Centrality of Events Scale. To control for the order effect, half of the participants were first assigned under the friend-role memory condition, while the other half were first assigned under the student-role memory condition. The study coded the contents of the memories by referring to the “Coding Guide for Self-Defining Events” by Thorne and McLean (2001). Thus, the study coded memory narrativesaccording to contents and categorized under the following themes: life-threatening events, recreation, relationships, achievement/mastery, and guilt/shame (Thorne & McLean, 2001).

Results

The results demonstrated that friend and student memories differed in terms of theme, function, and emotional valence. Relational themes were more frequent in the friend (71.7%) than in the student (4.7%; p < .001) memories. However, achievement themes were more pronounced in the student (32%) than in the friend (9%; p < .001) memories.

Memories of friend and student roles also differed in function. The participants rated friend-role memories higher than they did the student-role memories in the self-related functions (t(105) = −2.40, p =.018, d = .23) as well as social functions (t(105) = −6.30, p = .000, d = .61), but they did not differ in terms of directive functions [t(105) = −.73, p =.46, d = .07].

Regarding the phenomenological properties, the participants rated friend-role memories higher than they did student-role memories in positive emotions (t(105) = −2.50, p = .014, d = .28) and in the representation of the current self (t(105) = −4.50, p <.001, d = .54). The study noted no other differences between the two types of memories regarding phenomenological characteristics (all p values > .05).

Moreover, the study found differences in the centrality of an event in life. The participants rated the friend-role memories higher than they did the student-role memories as a reference point for other events (t(105) = −2.03, p = .044, d = .20) and a perception of the event as a central component of personal identity (t(105) = −3.30, p = .001, d = .32). In addition, the study observed no difference between memory types in viewing the event as a turning point in one’s life story (p = .68).

Discussion

These findings demonstrate that the friend- and student-role memories differ from each other in terms of theme, emotional valence, function, and centrality to the self. Furthermore, these findings imply that the characteristics of autobiographical memory may differ according to the social roles that triggered the memory. One focus of this study is whether or not the context of a social role triggers a particular memory theme. If specific goals are associated with a social role, then the study expects that memories triggered within this role context will frequently contain themes in line with these goals. Sheldon and Elliot (2000) reveal that goals, such as establishing social relationships and having a pleasant time, intrinsically motivate the friendship role, while goals, such as academic achievement, extrinsically motivate the student role. In line with this finding, the majority of the friendshiprole memories revealed in the current study contain relational themes. In addition, the study observes success/failure themes more frequently in student-role memories compared with other themes. This theme is also noted more frequently in student- than friend-role memories. These findings highlight that the themes of memories may be a reflection of the goals and motivations that underlie different social roles.

The findings also illustrate that friend-role memories carried more positive emotions than did student-role memories. The friend role, which is more intrinsically motivated (e.g., having pleasure), may have led the participants to memories with relational themes, while the student role, which is more extrinsically motivated (e.g., having high grades), may have directed the participants toward achievement themes. Given that intrinsic motivation is more related to positive emotions than extrinsic motivation (Ernst et al., 2018; Ryan & Deci, 2000), the difference in the positive emotions of these memories may also be due to variances in motivations that underlies these two types of social roles.

The evaluation of memories related to the friendship role as memories that fulfill functions related to the self may be a reflection of the contribution of friendship relationships in the self-formation and socialization processes of individuals to autobiographical memory. The shaping of the self and identity is a process that becomes evident from adolescence and continues throughout life. The relationships that come to the fore in this process include peers and friends instead of family members (Arnett, 2000). Empirical evidence widely supports and accepts the view that friendship relationships are highly effective in the construction of the self (e.g., McNamara Barry et al., 2014). In the current study, the fact that memories in the context of the friend role were mostly recalled to fulfill self-related functions, such as self-regulation and self-continuity, supports this view.

Furthermore, the study observes that memories recalled in the context of the friend role served social functions, such as meeting new people, strengthening existing relationships, developing close and deep relationships, establishing social bonds, and creating empathy more than did student-role memories. In early adulthood, scholars posit that friendships fulfill individual and social needs (Zarbatany et al., 2004). Previous studies find that memories related to close relationships, such as romantic ones, serve strong social functions (Alea & Bluck, 2007). Consistent with these findings, the current study reveals that memories related to friendship, which is another form of a close relationship, serve social functions.

Finally, memories related to the role of friends lie at the center of the identity of an individual and are viewed as a reference point for various events in life. This finding may point to the long-term effects of experiences gained from friendship relationships.

When interpreting the findings, considering certain limitations is important. One of them may be that the sample consists only of university students in their early adulthood and of predominantly female students. In the future, testing the variables by using different samples and by considering demographic variables, such as age and gender, may enrich the findings in this field. Another limitation may be the online collection of data. In this case, the participants may have continued without communicating with the researcher when question arise about the scale items. To minimize this possibility, the researchers conducted a pilot study prior to the actual data collection phase. With guidance from data and feedback obtained from the pilot study, the statements used in the questionnaires were presented to be as clear, precise, and understandable as possible.

As part of the effort to elucidate memory processes by considering social and cultural contexts, this study examined autobiographical memories in the context of student and friend roles. In future studies, examining the effect of the association of social roles to different goals and motivations on the processes of remembering the past may help in enhancing the understanding of the relationship among social role, identity, and memory process.


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APA

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu, F., & Mutlutürk, A. (2023). The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories. Studies in Psychology, 43(2), 255-287. https://doi.org/10.26650/SP2022-1167944


AMA

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu F, Mutlutürk A. The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories. Studies in Psychology. 2023;43(2):255-287. https://doi.org/10.26650/SP2022-1167944


ABNT

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu, F.; Mutlutürk, A. The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories. Studies in Psychology, [Publisher Location], v. 43, n. 2, p. 255-287, 2023.


Chicago: Author-Date Style

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu, F. Büşra, and Aysu Mutlutürk. 2023. “The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories.” Studies in Psychology 43, no. 2: 255-287. https://doi.org/10.26650/SP2022-1167944


Chicago: Humanities Style

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu, F. Büşra, and Aysu Mutlutürk. The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories.” Studies in Psychology 43, no. 2 (Jul. 2024): 255-287. https://doi.org/10.26650/SP2022-1167944


Harvard: Australian Style

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu, F & Mutlutürk, A 2023, 'The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories', Studies in Psychology, vol. 43, no. 2, pp. 255-287, viewed 17 Jul. 2024, https://doi.org/10.26650/SP2022-1167944


Harvard: Author-Date Style

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu, F. and Mutlutürk, A. (2023) ‘The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories’, Studies in Psychology, 43(2), pp. 255-287. https://doi.org/10.26650/SP2022-1167944 (17 Jul. 2024).


MLA

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu, F. Büşra, and Aysu Mutlutürk. The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories.” Studies in Psychology, vol. 43, no. 2, 2023, pp. 255-287. [Database Container], https://doi.org/10.26650/SP2022-1167944


Vancouver

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu F, Mutlutürk A. The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories. Studies in Psychology [Internet]. 17 Jul. 2024 [cited 17 Jul. 2024];43(2):255-287. Available from: https://doi.org/10.26650/SP2022-1167944 doi: 10.26650/SP2022-1167944


ISNAD

Erbil Hacıömeroğlu, F. Büşra - Mutlutürk, Aysu. The Effects of Social Roles on Autobiographical Memory: The Content, Functions and Phenomenological Characteristics of the Friend-role and the Student-role Memories”. Studies in Psychology 43/2 (Jul. 2024): 255-287. https://doi.org/10.26650/SP2022-1167944



TIMELINE


Submitted28.08.2022
Accepted09.03.2023
Published Online25.08.2023

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