Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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Systematic cross-cultural variation in autobiographical memory has been reported in numerous previous research. Variations have often been interpreted as mirroring differences in culturally diverging self-conceptions, implying that content characteristics of autobiographical memories can be used as indirect measures of self. However, a majority of these characteristics rest on the traditional independence vs. interdependence dimension, and might only be suitable for typically Western and Eastern populations. Other content characteristics could be more instrumental for “locating” the self in autobiographical memories, such as the incidence of actions, mental states and reflections. We therefore propose a new approach to content analysis of autobiographical memories. The approach is theoretically grounded in Kagitcibasi’s (2005) model of autonomy and relatedness and Bruner’s (1987) distinction between landscape of action and landscape of consciousness. Operationalizing these concepts and building on empirical work of Qi Wang (e.g. Wang, 2001), we present a four-step coding system for content analysis of autobiographical memories. In the first step, memories are divided into separate units of analysis. In the next three steps, these units are placed within a number of different categories, and that with regards to who the units’ subjects are, what these subjects are doing or experiencing, and whether they are thereby showing any signs of agency and/or relatedness. Ultimately, the proposed coding system aims to capture how the self is present, and presented, in autobiographical memory in a more nuanced way, compared with previous research. Hence, the system could be applicable for use in studies with a variety of culturally diverse populations.

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