Memories of Who We Are: A Preliminary Identification of Autobiographical Memory Functions in Recall of Authentic and Inauthentic Events


  • Anna Sutton Orcid
  • Jason Render


The story of who we are is central to our sense of authenticity and this story is constructed from our autobiographical memories. Yet we know surprisingly little about the functions that autobiographical memories of being authentic serve. This study provides a preliminary examination of the self, social and directive functions used in autobiographical memories of being authentic and inauthentic. Participants recalled times they felt they had been authentic or inauthentic at work. Analyses revealed that the self and directive functions were significantly more prevalent than the social function. In addition, authentic memories were most strongly associated with the self function while inauthentic memories were more likely to be used for the directive function. This may indicate that recall of an authentic experience serves to support one’s current self-identity, while recall of an inauthentic experience provides an opportunity to direct future behaviour towards a more authentic response. This study provides some of the first evidence for how autobiographical memories of being authentic or inauthentic may function in developing a coherent story of self that is needed for a sense of authenticity.