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Trait mindfulness and autobiographical memory specificity

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Rosalind Crawley.

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Crawley, R. Trait mindfulness and autobiographical memory specificity. Cogn Process 16, 79–86 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10339-014-0631-3

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Keywords

  • Individual differences
  • Trait mindfulness
  • Memory specificity
  • Rumination
  • Autobiographical memory