Cognitive Processing

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 79–86 | Cite as

Trait mindfulness and autobiographical memory specificity

  • Rosalind CrawleyEmail author
Research Report


Training in mindfulness skills has been shown to increase autobiographical memory specificity. The aim of this study was to examine whether there is also an association between individual differences in trait mindfulness and memory specificity using a non-clinical student sample (N = 70). Also examined were the relationships between other memory characteristics and trait mindfulness, self-reported depression and rumination. Participants wrote about 12 autobiographical memories, which were recalled in response to emotion word cues in a minimal instruction version of the Autobiographical Memory Test, rated each memory for seven characteristics, and completed the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory, the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale, and the Ruminative Responses Scale. Higher rumination scores were associated with more reliving and more intense emotion during recall. Depression scores were not associated with any memory variables. Higher trait mindfulness was associated with lower memory specificity and with more intense and more positive emotion during recall. Thus, trait mindfulness is associated with memory specificity, but the association is opposite to that found in mindfulness training studies. It is suggested that this difference may be due to an influence of trait mindfulness on memory encoding as well as retrieval processes and an influence on the mode of self-awareness that leads to a greater focus on momentary rather than narrative self-reference.


Individual differences Trait mindfulness Memory specificity Rumination Autobiographical memory 



Thanks to Nicola Cockburn and Katherine Allan for assistance with data coding and analysis and to Leonardo Bevilacqua, Vittorio Figurato and Catherine McKie for assistance with a pilot study. Thanks also to Antonino Raffone and to Jon Rees for their valuable comments.


  1. Anicha CL, Ode S, Moeller SK, Robinson MD (2012) Toward a cognitive view of trait mindfulness: distinct cognitive skills predict its observing and nonreactivity facets. J Pers 80:255–285. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2011.00722.x PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beike DR, Wirth-Beaumont ET (2005) Psychological closure as a memory phenomenon. Memory 13:574–593. doi: 10.1080/09658210444000241 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bishop RS, Lau M, Shapiro S et al (2004) Mindfulness: a proposed operational definition. Clin Psychol Sci Pr 10:125–143. doi: 10.1093/clipsy.bph077 Google Scholar
  4. Borders A, Earleywine M, Jajodia A (2010) Could mindfulness decrease anger, hostility, and aggression by decreasing rumination? Aggress Behav 36:28–44. doi: 10.1002/ab.20327 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown K, Ryan R (2003) The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. J Pers Soc Psychol 84:822–848. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buckner RL, Carroll DC (2007) Self-projection and the brain. Trends Cogn Sci 11:49–57. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2006.11.004 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cheyne JA, Carriere JSA, Smilek D (2006) Absent-mindedness: lapses of conscious awareness and everyday cognitive failures. Conscious Cogn 15:578–592. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2005.11.009 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen J (1992) A power primer. Psychol Bull 112:155–159. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.112.1.155 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Conway MA, Pleydell-Pearce CW (2000) The construction of autobiographical memories in the self-memory system. Psychol Rev 107:261–288. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.107.2.261 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Crawley RA (2010) Closure of autobiographical memories: the effects of written recounting from first- or third-person visual perspective. Memory 18:900–917. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2010.524650 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davidson RJ (2010) Empirical explorations of mindfulness: conceptual and methodological conundrums. Emotion 10:8–11. doi: 10.1037/a0018480 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Debeer E, Hermans D, Raes F (2009) Associations between components of rumination and autobiographical memory specificity as measured by a Minimal Instructions Autobiographical Memory Test. Memory 17:892–903. doi: 10.1080/09658210903376243 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Deyo M, Wilson KA, Ong J, Koopman C (2009) Mindfulness and rumination: does mindfulness training lead to reductions in the ruminative thinking associated with depression? Explore 5:265–271. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2009.06.005 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dorjee D (2010) Kinds and dimensions of mindfulness: why it is important to distinguish them. Mindfulness 1:152–160. doi: 10.1007/s12671-010-0016-3 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Farb NAS, Segal ZV, Mayberg H et al (2007) Attending to the present: mindfulness meditation reveals distinct neural modes of self-reference. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 2:313–322. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsm030 PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Golland Y, Bentin S, Gelbard H et al (2007) Extrinsic and intrinsic systems in the posterior cortex of the human brain revealed during natural sensory stimulation. Cereb Cortex 17:766–777PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Griffith JW, Sumner JA, Debeer E et al (2009) An item response theory/confirmatory factor analysis of the Autobiographical Memory Test. Memory 17:609–623. doi: 10.1080/09658210902939348 PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Griffith JW, Sumner JA, Raes F et al (2012) Current psychometric and methodological issues in the measurement of overgeneral autobiographical memory. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry 43:S21–S31. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2011.05.008 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grossman P (2011) Defining mindfulness by how poorly I think I pay attention during everyday awareness and other intractable problems for psychology’s (re)invention of mindfulness: comment on Brown et al. (2011). Psychol Assess 23:1034–1040. doi: 10.1037/a0022713 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hargus E, Crane C, Barnhofer T, Williams JMG (2010) Effects of mindfulness on meta-awareness and specificity of describing prodromal symptoms in suicidal depression. Emotion 10:34–42. doi: 10.1037/a0016825 PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Heeren A, Philippot P (2011) Changes in ruminative thinking mediate the clinical benefits of mindfulness: preliminary findings. Mindfulness 2:8–13. doi: 10.1007/s12671-010-0037-y CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heeren A, van Broeck N, Philippot P (2009) The effects of mindfulness on executive processes and autobiographical memory. Behav Res Ther 47:403–409. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2009.01.017 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Henry JD, Crawford JR (2005) The short-form version of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21): construct validity and normative data in a large non-clinical sample. Br J Clin Psychol 44:227–239. doi: 10.1348/014466505X29657 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. James W (1890) The principles of psychology, vol 1. Dover Publications, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jha AP, Stanley EA, Kiyonaga A, Wong L, Gelfand L (2010) Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion 10:54–64. doi: 10.1037/a0018438 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Josipovic Z, Dinstein I, Weber J, Heeger DJ (2011) Influence of meditation on anti-correlated networks in the brain. Front Hum Neurosci 5:183. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00183 PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Kabat-Zinn J (1990) Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your mind to face stress, pain and illness. Dell, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  28. Kingston T, Dooley B, Bates A, Lawlor E, Malone K (2007) Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for residual depressive symptoms. Psychol Psychother 80:193–203. doi: 10.1348/147608306X116016 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kohls N, Sauer S, Walach H (2009) Facets of mindfulness—results of an online study investigating the Freiburg mindfulness inventory. Pers Indiv Differ 46:224–230. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2008.10.009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lovibond SH, Lovibond PF (1995) Manual for the Depression Stress Anxiety Scales, 2nd edn. Psychology Foundation, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  31. Nakagawa S (2004) A farewell to Bonferroni: the problems of low statistical power and publication bias. Behav Ecol 15:1044–1045. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arh107 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Perneger TV (1998) What’s wrong with Bonferroni adjustments. Br Med J 316:1236. doi: 10.1136/bmj.316.7139.1236 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Raes F, Hermans D, Williams JMG, Eelen P (2006) Reduced autobiographical memory specificity and affect regulation. Cogn Emot 20:402–429. doi: 10.1080/02699930500341003 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Teasdale JD, Segal ZV, Williams JMG (1995) How does cognitive therapy prevent depressive relapse and why should attentional control (mindfulness) training help? Behav Res Ther 33:25–39. doi: 10.1016/0005-7967(94)E0011-7 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Thompson BL, Waltz J (2007) Everyday mindfulness and mindfulness meditation: overlapping constructs or not? Pers Indiv Differ 43:1875–1885. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2007.06.017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Tian L, Jiang T, Liu Y et al (2007) The relationship within and between the extrinsic and intrinsic systems indicated by resting state correlational patterns of sensory cortices. Neuroimage 36:684–690. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.03.044 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Treynor W, Gonzalez R, Nolen-Hoeksema S (2003) Rumination reconsidered: a psychometric analysis. Cogn Ther Res 27:247–259. doi: 10.1023/A:1023910315561 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. van Vreeswijk MF, de Wilde EJ (2004) Autobiographical memory specificity, psychopathology, depressed mood and the use of the Autobiographical Memory Test: a meta-analysis. Behav Res Ther 42:731–743. doi: 10.1016/S0005-7967(03)00194-3 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Walach H, Buchheld N, Buttenmuller V, Kleinknecht N, Schmidt S (2006) Measuring mindfulness-the Freiburg Mindfulness Inventory (FMI). Pers Indiv Differ 40:1543–1555. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.11.025 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Walsh JJ, Balint MG, Smolira DR, Fredericksen LK, Madsen S (2009) Predicting individual differences in mindfulness: the role of trait anxiety, attachment anxiety and attentional control. Pers Indiv Differ 46:94–99. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2008.09.008 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Williams JMG (2006) Capture and rumination, functional avoidance, and executive control (CaRFAX): three processes that underlie overgeneral memory. Cogn Emot 20:548–568. doi: 10.1080/02699930500450465 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Williams JMG, Broadbent K (1986) Autobiographical memory in suicide attempters. J Abnorm Psychol 95:144–149. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.95.2.144 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Williams JMG, Dritschel B (1992) Categoric and extended autobiographical memories. In: Conway MA, Rubin DC, Spinnler H, Wagenaar WA (eds) Theoretical perspectives on autobiographical memory. Kluwer Academic, Dordrecht, pp 391–410Google Scholar
  44. Williams JMG, Teasdale JD, Segal ZV, Soulsby J (2000) Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy reduces overgeneral autobiographical memory in formerly depressed patients. J Abnorm Psychol 109:150–155. doi: 10.1037/0021-843X.109.1.150 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Williams JMG, Barnhofer T, Crane C et al (2007) Autobiographical memory specificity and emotional disorder. Psychol Bull 133:122–148. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.122 PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Marta Olivetti Belardinelli and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of SunderlandSunderlandUK

Personalised recommendations