One of the methods that can be used to assess autobiographical memory, and therefore retrograde amnesia, is to Crovitz technique, based on the association of free words used by pioneers of psychology such as Galton and Jung. In this article, we will analyze Crovitz’s method and the relationship between age and autobiographical memory.
What is the Crovitz technique? That is to say?
The Crovitz technique is a psychological test used to assess autobiographical memoryMainly in people with some type of dementia. It was developed by Herbert F. Crovitz and Harold Schiffman in 1974; the authors relied on the free word association method, which had been created by Francis Galton and popularized by Carl Jung.
This simple test involves presenting a series of words about the assessment. The person will have to recount a personal memory from any time in your life which is associated with the word stimulus. Although it is difficult to make quantitative evaluations of the results, these can be useful in broadly analyzing autobiographical memory.
The number and characteristics of the subject’s memories are compared to those of their normative group in order to detect signs of cognitive impairment, or to rule them out. In this regard, it is important to note that the quality of memory varies depending on the age at which a memory was encoded concrete; we’ll talk about it below.
Although many experts argue for the consistency of this technique, different studies have warned of the weaknesses of the Crovitz technique. Beyond the difficulties associated with quantifying the results, we know that certain types of words promote the retrieval of memories with emotional content or at specific periods.
Developments in the Crovitz technique
Different authors have reconceptualized or perfected the technique created by Crovitz and Schiffman. For example, Robinson updated the method by specifying two instructions: “Think of an experience in your own life that this word reminds you of” and “Keep thinking until you remember a specific event associated with it. per word ”.
For her part, Karis performed a procedure in which she asked subjects to write down any memories that came to their mind when reading the word stimulus, specifying that these could be very specific (“how have broken a window a day to the individual “) or general (” how to wash windows every Saturday morning “).
Memory based on encoding age
In general, people remember things that happened recently. The quality of memories decreases very markedly as we go back more or less into the last year of life; the memory of previous events worsens more slowly from this point on.
Therefore, when represented graphically the recording curve as a function of the coding age a sharp drop is observed in the last months of life which finally takes the form of an asymptote. However, certain factors exert obvious effects on the normal functioning of autobiographical memory.
Thus, the Crovitz technique and other similar methods they can be useful in assessing the presence of retrograde amnesia, Which is defined as a great difficulty remembering events that occurred before a certain brain injury, such as those of Korsakoff syndrome and dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease.
Another striking fact is that older people, especially those with signs of cognitive impairment, recall more biographical events that occurred between the ages of 10 and 30, or so, compared to what happened in later years. This period has been called the “peak of reminiscence”..
History of the word association method
Francis Galton, considered one of the pioneers of statistics (and a strong supporter of controversial eugenic ideas), developed at the end of the 19th century a technique of psychological evaluation consisting of presenting words to a subject; then he verbalized one or two ideas related to the terms given by the evaluator.
While Galton did not use the word association specifically to assess autobiographical memory, other authors have adopted it for this purpose and others. The application of psychoanalyst Carl Jung is particularly famous as a method of analyzing the unconscious, inspired by Freudian free association (or “fundamental rule”).
Word association has been used by psychologists from very different branches of our science. Thus, in addition to the clinical uses that we have described, this method received some attention from market researchers as it can help gauge consumer reactions to slogans, brand names, etc.
- Crovitz, HF and Schiffman, H. (1974). Frequency of episodic memories according to their age. Bulletin of the Psychological Society, 4 (5): 517-518.
- Rubin, DC (1986). Autobiographical memory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.