Accessibility Advantage of Unobservable Self-Aspects Reverses for Distant Memories - Both Episodic and Semantic

Abstract

Self-reports regarding how people visualise themselves during events that occurred in the past show that for events from the distant past individuals report assuming a more external perspective than for events from the recent past. Thus it appears that, with the passage of time, representations of self embodied in memories of past events lose their position of an insider and assume a more ordinary position of self as an object seen from the perspective of an outside observer. Results show that self-judgements regarding unobservable, covert characteristics were faster for recent—compared to more distant—autobiographical events. However, self-judgements regarding observable, overt characteristics were faster for more distant events. This suggests an accessibility-based mechanism underlying the shift from internal to the relatively more external perspective in forming self-images related to the distant past.