Autobiographical memory encompasses memory for significant personal experiences and knowledge of the self and, consequently, is critical for personal identity and psychological wellbeing (Conway & Pleydell-Pearce, 2000; Pillemer, 1998). Although autobiographical memory, like many other cognitive faculties, has been traditionally viewed as an individual matter and a product of the mind or brain, research in the past two decades has revealed the central role of culture in human cognition and remembering. Recent theories of autobiographical memory have increasingly emphasized the constructive nature of memory in the cultural context, and empirical findings have further accentuated the influence of culture on autobiographical remembering (Nelson & Fivush, 2004; Wang & Brockmeier, 2002; Wang & Ross, 2007).
Against this backdrop, my collaborators and I have conducted extensive studies to examine the effect of culture on autobiographical remembering through affecting information processing at the level of the individual and by shaping social practices of remembering between individuals. This suite of research further integrates developmental, cognitive, and sociocultural perspectives to examine the mechanisms responsible for the development of autobiographical memory. We have obtained critical evidence that two intrapersonal variables – self-construal and emotion knowledge – and one interpersonal variable – parent-child reminiscing – play important roles in driving the cultural differences in the content, structure, emergency, and general accessibility of autobiographical memory. In addition, we have conducted studies to investigate how these intrapersonal and interpersonal variables themselves are influenced by culture through early socialization practices and parental beliefs and goals. Together, these studies illustrate that autobiographical memory emerges and develops as both an individual expression and a cultural product (see diagram below for illustration).