&Quot;Yes, I Remember It Well...&Quot;: the Role of Autobiographical Memory in Consumer Information Processing

Geeta Menon, New York University
Gita Johar, Columbia University
[ to cite ]:
Geeta Menon and Gita Johar (1993) ,"&Quot;Yes, I Remember It Well...&Quot;: the Role of Autobiographical Memory in Consumer Information Processing", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, eds. Leigh McAlister and Michael L. Rothschild, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 108.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 20, 1993      Page 108


Geeta Menon, New York University

Gita Johar, Columbia University

Autobiographical memory can be defined in general terms as memory for personal experiences. The focus of interest of psychologists in this area has been on the manner in which personal and social experiences are stored in memory and later retrieved. While some researchers used themselves as subjects in an attempt to study memory for everyday events (e.g., Linton 1875, 1978, 1982; Wagenaar 1986; White 1982), other researchers had subjects maintain records of their behavior at random time intervals, and then later retrieve information about these behaviors (e.g., Brewer 1986, 1988).

This session had two broad objectives. First, most of the work on autobiographical memory has been outside the area of consumer behavior and marketing. However, this research has far-reaching implications for how consumers store product information in memory, how they retrieve information to process subsequent information to formulate judgments, and how they behave in future interactions with the product and to its advertising. Therefore, we hoped to stimulate consumer researchers' interest in this area. Second, the session investigated the similarities and differences between memory for product experiences and memory for other kinds of personal experiences within the realm of autobiographical memory.

We had two papers in this session. In the first paper, Mita Sujan, Hans Baumgartner and James Bettman extend their research published in the first issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology (Baumgartner, Sujan and Bettman, 1992). In a series of two studies they demonstrate that in the product domain, increasing the accessibility of autobiographical memory leads to higher levels of emotion. In addition, brand evaluations do not differ as a function of the strength of the argument in the ad when such autobiographical memory is evoked, suggesting a reduced analysis of product information. However, the extent to which this affect is transferred over to the product judgment depends upon the extent to which the personal memory is linked to the brand in the ad.

In the second paper, Gita Johar and Geeta Menon find that unlike autobiographical memory for personal or social experiences, positive product experiences are not always more salient than negative product experiences. They then demonstrate that an evoked autobiographical memory (i.e., actual experiences) could impact brand judgments and ad processing in a different manner compared to other types of memory such as reported memory (i.e., information acquired through word-of-mouth or media).

Julie Edell was the discussant for this session. She brought her expertise in the area of affect, advertising and information processing to the area of autobiographical memory. She talked about how the degree of affect associated with an autobiographical memory could be dependent upon the specificity of the memory evoked (e.g., personal memory vs. autobiographical facts vs. generic personal memory as per Brewer's 1986 classification). This is affected by the kind of retrieval cue use: for example, Sujan et al. used a general cue as opposed to the specific one used by Johar and Menon. She also proposed that future research examine the strength of affect associated with autobiographical memory and the valence of this affect, context effects created by evoking autobiographical memory, and how the incongruity between encountered information and that retrieved from memory could be resolved. An important link was also established during audience discussion between autobiographical memory and the self-referent encoding literature (e.g. Klein and Kihlstrom 1986).

We believe that this research stream should be of interest to three groups of people: (a) academic researchers interested in the theoretical areas of memory and affect; (b) researchers in the area of product satisfaction/dissatisfaction; and, (c) advertisers who could apply the findings of the studies presented in deciding the kind of information and cues to be included in advertising.


Baumgartner, Hans, Mita Sujan and James R. Bettman (1992), "Autobiographical Memories, Affect, and Consumer Information Processing", Journal of Consumer Psychology, 1/1, 53-82.

Brewer, William F. (1986), "What is Autobiographical Memory?", in Autobiographical Memory, ed., Rubin, David C., New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 25-49.

Brewer, William F. (1988), "Memory for Randomly Samples Autobiographical Events", in Remembering Reconsidered: Ecological and Traditional Approaches to the Study of Memory, eds., Neisser, Ulric and Eugene Winograd, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 21-90.

Linton, Marigold (1975), "Memory for Real-World Events," in Explorations in Cognition, eds., Donald A. Norman and David E. Rumelhart, San Francisco, CA: W. H. Freeman and Company, 366-404.

Linton, Marigold (1978), "Real World Memory After Six Years: An In Vivo Study of Very Long Term Memory," in Practical Aspects of Memory, eds., Michael M. Gruneberg, Peter E. Morris and Robert N. Sykes, New York, NY: Academic Press, 77-83.

Linton, Marigold (1982), "Transformations of Memory in Everyday Life," in Memory Observed: Remembering in Natural Contexts, ed., Ulric Neisser, San Francisco, CA: W. H. Freeman and Company, 77-92.

Klein, Stanley B. and John F. Kihlstrom (1986), "Elaboration, Organization, and the Self-Reference Effect in Memory", Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 115/1, 26-38.

Wagenaar, Willem A. (1986), "My Memory: A Study of Autobiographical Memory over Six Years", Cognitive Psychology, 18, 225-252.

White, Richard T. (1982), "Memory for Personal Events", Human Learning, 1, 171-183.