The self as a concept has intrigued cognitive scientists for centuries. Philosopher David Hume viewed the self not as a single entity, but as a “bundle” of impressions. Nonetheless, people still report feeling a unified sense of self from a disparate set of experiences. Having a clearer sense of self is associated with better well-being, suggesting that the mental act of constructing a concept of oneself as a single entity serves important psychological functions. How do the connections people make within their “bundle” of impressions relate to their overarching sense of self and well-being? In this talk, we introduce Autobiographical Memory-Identity (AM-I) networks, a method to empirically map the network structure of the connections a person perceives within and across their unique set of personal memories and identities. People whose AM-I networks consisted of a dense set of connections centered around negative memories or identities reported higher levels of depression, rumination, and a less clear sense of self. We discuss how mapping cognitive representations of the self via AM-I networks could be used to individualize interventions in psychotherapeutic and experimental contexts.
Cognitive Science Lunchtime Talk - Kara Enz