Involuntary and voluntary autobiographical memory

Autobiographical memory is our everyday memory for personally experienced past events and is thought to be crucial in maintaining a sense of self and identity.

Old photograph

Think about the importance of autobiographical memory by asking yourself what life would be like without it – would you as you exist?

Our research distinguishes between memories that are voluntarily retrieved and involuntarily retrieved (ie, a memory that ‘pops’ to mind without you trying to remember anything).

Involuntary memories have not been studied very often and most of what we know about the structure, organisation and functions of autobiographical memory is based on voluntary memories.

We are currently looking at both involuntary and voluntary memories to examine the extent to which they are similar or dissimilar.

The research is carried out with healthy young adults, depressed young adults and older adults (70 years +) from the local community to see how our memories change as we grow older.