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The role of executive function and attachment styles on autobiographical memories of relationships Sezin Oner & Sami Gulgoz Koc University Istanbul.Turkey.

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Presentation on theme: "The role of executive function and attachment styles on autobiographical memories of relationships Sezin Oner & Sami Gulgoz Koc University Istanbul.Turkey."— Presentation transcript:

1 The role of executive function and attachment styles on autobiographical memories of relationships Sezin Oner & Sami Gulgoz Koc University Istanbul.Turkey ESCOP 2013 Budapest. Hungary

2 Attachment theory (Bowlby. 1980) Internal working models develop from interactions with “significant others” and form the relational schemas that act as mental codes. Attachment-behavioral system: “from the cradle to grave”. ▫ Guide individuals’ information-processing and self- regulation in relational experiences ▫ An overall self-regulation system involving cognitive, affective, and behavioral strategies (e.g. Mikulincer & Shaver, 2003; 2007).

3 Attachment behavior (By R. Chris Fraley. copied from

4 Previous evidence Biased attention towards attachment-related stimuli (Edelstein, 2006) - positive or negative, or both? - specific to attachment-related information? Suppression of attachment-related information no longer works under cognitive load – the spill-over effect (or rebound) is observed on automatic or effortful processing. or both? (Mikulincer et al., 20004; Edelstein & Gillath, 2008)

5 The way of reflecting on thought processes contributes one to purposefully direct future actions and also make meaning of experiences. Considering functions of autobiographical memories (e.g. Bluck & Alea. 2003; Bluck et al ), metacognitive processes were investigated. Metacognitive tendencies (Wells & Cartwright-Hatton, 2004) ▫ the need to control thoughts ▫ positive beliefs ▫ cognitive confidence (metamemory) ▫ uncontrollability and danger ▫ cognitive self-consciousness

6 Current Research Specific focus on the attachment related mechanisms on the phenomenological characteristics of autobiographical memories.

7 Current Research Goal: to investigate the role of attachment anxiety/attachment avoidance in how we remember relational experiences. to test whether metacognitive strategies and executive function are involved in the association between attachment and memory

8 Current Research ▫ Attachment anxiety: “hyperactivating” self regulation strategy – underregulation of affect taxing cognitive functioning  High anxiety is associated with higher reliving higher rehearsal higher emotionality  High anxiety is associated with lower performance on executive tasks. specifically affecting the attachment-related information  Particular aspects of metacognition contribute to the effect of attachment variables (especially thought control and uncontrollability)

9 Current Research ▫ Attachment avoidance: “deactivating” self regulation strategy – overrregulation of affect. but still taxing cognitive functioning  High avoidance is associated with lower reliving. lower rehearsal. lower emotionality  High avoidance y is associated with lower performance on executive tasks. specifically affecting the attachment-related information

10 Method Participants ( N = 104) were recruited from Koc University in exchange for course credit Participants were excluded if they ▫ have not been involved in any romantic relationship ▫ did not provide appropriate autobiographical memory reports ▫ performed less than 85% accuracy criteria in AOSPAN

11 Method All the measures were completed online in the lab. Experiences in Close Relationships-II (ECR-II) ▫ Attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance Metacognition Questionnaire-30 Demographic information ▫ Relationship status  Are you currently in a romantic relationship?  If yes how long?  If no. have you been in any romantic relationship? ▫ If yes. how long ago?

12 Method Two negative and two positive memories Memory Characteristics Questionnaire ▫ Event qualities at retrieval such as intensity. vividness. importance. rehearsal. Emotional Stroop ▫ Attachment-related. non-attachment related positive and negative words. also neutral words in random order. Automated Operation Span (AOSPAN)

13 Sample Overview

14 ES and AOSPAN scores were correlated with each other. ▫ Their association seems to be independent of attachment variables and any event qualities.

15 Step 1: Memory age Step 2: Relationship Status (Current) Step 3: Anxiety and Avoidance Step 4: Metacognitive Strategies ▫ Positive beliefs. Uncontrollability. Thought Control. Cognitive awareness. Metamemory subscale scores were entered in stepwise regression Hierarchical regression analyses;

16 Negative memories ▫ The model was not significant for only for intentional remembering

17 Positive memories ▫ The effect of relationship status was observed that memories of current relationships were more likely to be remembered and reexperienced, and rated as more emotionally intense.

18 Discussion Individuals with high attachment anxiety tend to report ▫ more reliving ▫ more involuntary remembering ▫ more voluntary rehearsal Individuals with high attachment avoidance tend to report ▫ less intense emotions at the time of the event ▫ less involuntary remembering ▫ less voluntary rehearsal ▫ attributed less importance to relational experiences

19 Discussion Attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance were found to be associated with how we remember experiences in romantic relationships independent of the passage of time. High anxiety : negative memories were perceived as alarm states ▫ Increased reliving ▫ Increased emotional intensity ▫ High importance Avoidance was more likely to influence positive remembering Preventing correective feedback in relatonships ▫ Not all memory characteristics were influenced!

20 Discussion Current vs previous relationship Why only on positive memories? ▫ Current relationship might provide the context, attachment issues are real! ▫ Intimacy function (Bluck & Alea, 2010) ▫ More related to current goals (Conway,, Singer, & Tagini, 2004) Positive vs negative memories If highly anxious, positive memories were more likely to retrieved, however, at the time of the retrieval, emotional intensity is independent of anxiety. Positive memories, retrieved with blunted affect. High avoidance, associated with low consequentiality, and emotional intensity ▫ prevents the resolution, or emotional processing of negative events ▫ less likely to make meaning of positive experiences.

21 Discussion Attachment-related differences were reflected to metacognitive style. ▫ Involuntary retrieval was differentially associated with metacognitive tendencies for positive and negative memories Thoughts about self-cognitive processes might feedback attachment-based expectations. ▫ Memory mistrust, feelings of uncontrollability resulted in more know judgments ▫ Possible to inhibit effective decision-making

22 Questions for future research Attachment styles and future projections ▫ linking past to future: moderating role of attachment and relationship satisfaction on imagining future of the relationship. Does reporting order influence the effect of attachment anxiety or/and attachment avoidance? Does the emotional state at retrieval elevate/decrease the influence of attachment anxiety vs. attachment avoidance? Underlying mechanisms should be defined to explain the the association between executive function. and autobiographical remembering linked to attachment.

23 Questions & Comments? For any questions. suggestions. please to:


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