Autobiographical memory, autonoetic consciousness, and self-perspective in aging.
In this study, the authors examined the effects of aging on autobiographical memory in 180 participants by means of a new method designed to assess across 5 lifetime periods the nature of memories-that is, specificity and spontaneity--and the phenomenal experience of remembering--that is, self-perspective and autonoetic consciousness--via the field/observer and remember/know paradigms respectively. Age-related differences were found for the specificity and spontaneity of memories and the phenomenal experience of remembering. There was an increase in observer and know responses with age, but a decrease in field and remember responses and in the ability to justify them by recalling sensory-perceptive, affective, or spatiotemporal specific details. This pattern confirms the existence of a semantic-episodic dissociation in autobiographical memory in aging. Moreover, the data support the view that older participants can subjectively "travel back in time" to relive personal events in the most distant past better than those in the recent past.