Functioning of autobiographical memory specificity and self-defining memories in people with cancer diagnosis

PeerJ. 2019 Dec 19:7:e8126. doi: 10.7717/peerj.8126. eCollection 2019.


Objectives: Cognitive and emotional disturbances have been associated with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Autobiographical memory is one of the specific cognitive processes affected during this disease. The current study had two main aims: (1) to compare the functioning of autobiographical memory specificity and its related variables (executive functioning, depression and perceived stress) in a group of persons with cancer and a control group; and (2) to analyze whether the experience of cancer evolved into a self-defining memory in the sample of participants diagnosed with this disease.

Method: The study sample comprised 62 participants, 31 in the group with a cancer diagnosis and 31 in the control group. Autobiographical memory specificity, executive functions, depression, stress and self-defining memory were evaluated in the current study.

Results: Depressive symptomatology and reduced executive functioning, but not perceived stress levels, are related and are predictors of autobiographical memory specificity. In addition, the identified characteristics of the self-defining memories were associated with the cancer experience as a threat to physical integrity and an awareness of the meaning of life.

Conclusion: This emerging research line is especially important in view of its possible impacts on patients' well-being, due to the importance of psychological processes in cancer disease.

Keywords: Autobiographical memory specificity; Cancer; Depression; Executive functions; Perceived stress; Self-defining memory; Stress.

Grants and funding

The authors received no funding for this work.