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Involuntary Autobiographical Memories
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We often remember personal experiences without any conscious effort. A piece of music heard on the radio may stir a memory of a moment from the past. Such occurrences are known as involuntary autobiographical memories. They often occur in response to environmental stimuli or aspects of current thought. Until recently, they were treated almost exclusively as a clinical phenomenon, as a sign of distress or a mark of trauma. In this innovative work, however, Dorthe Berntsen argues that involuntary memories are predominantly positive and far more common than previously believed. She argues that they reflect a basic mode of remembering that predates the more advanced strategic retrieval mode, and that their primary function may simply be to prevent us from living in the present. Reviewing a variety of cognitive, clinical, and aesthetic approaches, this monograph will be of immense interest to anyone seeking to better understand this misunderstood phenomenon.


‘A valuable addition to a field that has traditionally received less attention than warranted. Scholarly, timely and necessary for memory research as a whole.’

Dr James Erskine - School of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire

‘A marvellous book. Writing with an engaging style, Berntsen identifies the important common and distinctive features of involuntary memories and provides a virtual blueprint for the next generation of research. Cognitive and clinical psychologists alike will appreciate her analysis of the role of memory in posttraumatic stress disorder and depression.’

Joseph Fitzgerald - Wayne State University

‘Dorthe Berntsen's book on involuntary memories – experiences we all have many times every day – is a marvellous work of scholarship on a neglected topic. She takes a broad view, collects relevant evidence from disparate fields, and writes in an elegant but readable style. The book belongs on the shelf of anyone interested in how memory works and would make a wonderful text for a graduate or advanced undergraduate seminar on this fascinating topic.’

Henry L. Roediger - Washington University, St Louis

'This book is much more than a research review and integration of findings. The writing is exceptionally lucid, the content scholarly without being ponderous … The exciting theoretical issues raised in this book will engage students, experienced researchers, and scholars who share a serious interest in the organization and functions of autobiographical memory. For readers who believe that psychology and related disciplines are enriched by a truly integrative and theory-driven approach, this book is an inspiration.'

David B. Pillemer Source: Memory Studies

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