Quantitative measurements of autobiographical memory content

PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e44809. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044809. Epub 2012 Sep 21.


Autobiographical memory (AM), subjective recollection of past experiences, is fundamental in everyday life. Nevertheless, characterization of the spontaneous occurrence of AM, as well as of the number and types of recollected details, remains limited. The CRAM (Cue-Recalled Autobiographical Memory) test (http://cramtest.info) adapts and combines the cue-word method with an assessment that collects counts of details recalled from different life periods. The SPAM (Spontaneous Probability of Autobiographical Memories) protocol samples introspection during everyday activity, recording memory duration and frequency. These measures provide detailed, naturalistic accounts of AM content and frequency, quantifying essential dimensions of recollection. AM content (∼20 details/recollection) decreased with the age of the episode, but less drastically than the probability of reporting remote compared to recent memories. AM retrieval was frequent (∼20/hour), each memory lasting ∼30 seconds. Testable hypotheses of the specific content retrieved in a fixed time from given life periods are presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Probability
  • Psychological Tests*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

The authors thank the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Award No: FA9550-10-1-0385. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.