Cognitive impairment, depression and the specificity of autobiographical memory in the elderly.
Phillips S., Williams JM.
Previous research has shown that both depressed (Williams & Scott, 1988) and elderly (Winthorpe & Rabbitt, 1988) people have difficulties in being specific in autobiographical memory. However, no study has examined the joint impact of cognitive impairment and affective disturbance. In this preliminary study, 22 elderly people with memory complaints were tested with the Autobiographical Memory Test, the Brief Assessment Schedule Depression Cards, Geriatric Depression Scale and the Mini-Mental State Examination. Results showed that autobiographical specificity decreased with increasing levels of cognitive impairment. Participants were more likely to produce overgeneral memories (omissions or generic memories) than extended or specific memories. There was little relation between severity of depression and specificity in autobiographical memory, consistent with previous suggestions that overgenerality in depression is a long-term cognitive style unaffected by state depression (Brittlebank, Scott, Williams & Ferrier, 1993).