Supporting the self-concept with memory: Insight from amnesia

Matthew D. Grilli, Mieke Verfaellie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


We investigated the extent to which personal semantic memory supports the self-concept in individuals with medial temporal lobe amnesia and healthy adults. Participants completed eight 'I Am' self-statements. For each of the four highest ranked self-statements, participants completed an open-ended narrative task, during which they provided supporting information indicating why the I Am statement was considered self-descriptive. Participants then completed an episodic probe task, during which they attempted to retrieve six episodic memories for each of these self-statements. Supporting information was scored as episodic, personal semantic or general semantic. In the narrative task, personal semantic memory predominated as self-supporting information in both groups. The amnesic participants generated fewer personal semantic memories than controls to support their self-statements, a deficit that was more pronounced for trait relative to role self-statements. In the episodic probe task, the controls primarily generated unique event memories, but the amnesic participants did not. These findings demonstrate that personal semantic memory, in particular autobiographical fact knowledge, plays a critical role in supporting the self-concept, regardless of the accessibility of episodic memories, and they highlight potential differences in the way traits and roles are supported by personal memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernsv056
Pages (from-to)1684-1692
Number of pages9
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 17 2014


  • Amnesia
  • Episodic memory
  • Personal semantics
  • Self

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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