By examining the influence memory has on creating the self, and witnessing the detrimental effects memory loss has on identity it can be justly argued that memory is a strong contributor to one’s consciousness. In turn, the way in which we remember things is dependent on our self. In a study done at the University of Florida, it was hypothesized that memory recall was influenced by two factors: identity classification as well as congruence with self-schema. Self-schema refers to the beliefs and ideas people have about themselves. The memories recalled would also have an effect on the self-schema as well.
Initial Step: Four major categories of identity were established and 71 subjects were segregated into their respective class.
- Diffuse people have not yet successfully negotiated the tasks of identity development because they lack both a stable system of commitments and any active process of exploration directed at achieving them.
- In contrast, Foreclosed people have resolved this process by prematurely co-opting available, often parental, value systems. Their strong identity commitments therefore occur in the absence of any active self-exploration or crisis.
- Moratorium people, on the other hand, are actively involved in the struggle to explore alternative beliefs but have not yet attained firm identity commitments.
- Finally, Achieved people have settled on a stable system of commitments following an active period of exploration and identity crisis.
Phase OneIn phase one, subjects were presented with 28 bipolar social constructs (i.e. trustworthy vs. untrustworthy, tidy vs. untidy) and were asked to rate the importance of these when forming an impression of a person on a 1 to 6 scale. The second part of stage 1 consisted of the subject rating how much they identified with 53 of the constructs separate and randomized. For example, in the first section they were asked about the importance of being trustworthy as opposed to untrustworthy. In the second part they were given each one separately and asked once again on a scale from 1 to 6 how much they identified with that construct. Not all 106 adjectives were used, only 53 chosen at random.
Phase 2 comprised of the memory recall section. Four construct were chosen based upon the highest level of importance rated by the subject. The traits were individually displayed on the screen for two and a half minutes. During this time the subjects were to recall as many personal memories in which they displayed this characteristic. The memories had to be very specific events and had to be specific to them. For every separate memory remembered in that time frame, they were to push a red button as soon as they thought of a memory. It was stressed that it was not relevant whether other people would judge the behavior of the memory differently; it was entirely dependent on whether the subject felt they were displaying the trait. After each memory the subject was asked to record the date of the memory and a few keywords that could be used to help them recall the memory later. This was repeated for all 4 words. There were two controlled groups for this test. In both controls, the adjectives chosen were of the highest importance rating. In the first control group, the four words were congruent with the subjects self schema. In other words they strongly identified themselves with those traits. In the second group, the four words were incongruent with their identity. For instance group 1 was given the words trustworthy, tidy, courageous and happy, all of which were ranked as being important characteristics and all of which they rated as being highly descriptive of themselves. Group two were given the words untrustworthy, untidy, cowards, and unhappy, all of which were rated to be important characteristics used to form impressions and all of which they felt poorly described themselves. Both latency (how quickly memories were recalled) and the amount of total memories for each word were recorded
Phase ThreeStage 3: The final phase consisted of the subjects being presented with the same traits as before and asked to once again rate how descriptive each trait was to them. This was to test whether based on memory the subject would change whether or not a construct described them well.
As hypothesized it was found that the subjects who had a strong, established and firm sense of identity (achieved and foreclosed) recalled a much higher quantity of memories along with a faster recall rate. This was because when there is a fundamentally strong foundation of self identity the subject can easily recall memories that are congruent with their self schema. Results also showed that many more congruent memories were recalled as opposed to incongruent. This displayed that subjects remembered more instances of showcasing traits that best described them than traits that were not related to their sense of self. Finally, subjects who recalled memories that were incongruent with their self-perceptions changed their self-ratings more than did subjects who recalled memories congruent with their self-perceptions. For example if the subject initially stated that they were not unhappy, but contrast recalled numerous unhappy moments, they re-categorized themselves as being unhappy