1 July 2011

Self-Memory Systems

Conway’s model of the self-memory systems (Conway, 2005; Conway & Pleydell-Pearce, 2000; Conway & Williams, 2008; Williams & Conway, 2009) may currently represent the most influential theory about how autobiographical memories are constructed in consciousness. Conway (2005) claims that autobiographical memory is formed by episodic memory and autobiographical knowledge, which is defined as the conceptual generic schematic knowledge of these episodic memories. Thus, autobiographical memory locates human beings in socio-historical time. The interlocking of episodic memories and autobiographical knowledge is carried out by self-networks (Williams & Conway, 2009). Within these networks, memories are networked by their relation to a person’s sense of self – more precisely, the particular version of the person’s working self, which was active when that memory was formed (Williams & Conway, 2009: 37). The link to the social world is given by the fact that self-networks necessarily extend beyond the brain because individuals or selves belong and exist in relation to social groups. Moreover, processes of autobiographical remembering must meet the criteria set by the goal of the working self. The goals are always in accordance to the demands that the person is performing (i.e. narrating the first time I was robbed). These demands are largely shaped by social groups.


Conway, M.A. (2005). Memory and the self. Journal of Memory and Language 53 (4), 594-628.

Conway, M. A. & Pleydell- Pearce, C. W. (2000). The construction of autobiographicalmemories in the self-memory system. Psychological Review 107, 261-288.

Conway, M.A. & Williams, H.L. (2008). Autobiographical memory. In H.L. Roediger III (ed.), Cognitive Psychology of Memory. Vol 2 of Learning and Memory: A Comprehensive Reference, 4 vols. (pp. 893-909). Oxford: Elsevier.

Williams, H. & Conway, M.A. (2009). Networks of autobiographical memories. In P. Boyer & J. Wertsch (eds.), Memory in Mind and Culture (pp.33-61). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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