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The relationship between life goals, functions of autobiographical memory and self-esteem in transition to adulthood


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Milić, Marija. (2018). The relationship between life goals, functions of autobiographical memory and self-esteem in transition to adulthood. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Psychology.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij psihologije) [mentor Vranić, Andrea].

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The self-memory system (SMS; Conway and Pleydell-Pearce, 2000) is an extensive and complex model of autobiographical memory (AM) that consists of two major parts: working self and autobiographical knowledge base. Autobiographical knowledge base is a memory storage containing information about who we are, who we were and what we might become (Conway, 2005). The working self consists of a set of active personal goals and the conceptual self (Conway, Singer and Tagini, 2004). This working self shapes and determines which information from experience will be encoded in AM. It also determines which memories can be accessed from the autobiographical knowledge base according to one’s goals, plans or beliefs (Conway and Loveday, 2015). The aim of this study was to examine the relationships among the components of working self—goals, self and AM—in the part of the model associated with AM recall. AM was tapped by measuring the frequency of use of three functions of autobiographical remembering for various purposes: self-oriented, social-bonding and directing-behavior functions (Bluck and Alea, 2011). We also examined the possibility of relating SMS and the functional model of AM. Self, in this context, is a way in which a person thinks of oneself based on previous experiences (Schwartz, 2011). Self-esteem is subjective evaluation of one's own worth, i.e. evaluation of the self (Rosenberg, 1965). In this research, we operationalised self as two dimensions of global self-esteem: self-competence and self-liking. Self-competence is the general impression of oneself as a causative agent, an intentional being who can generate potential outcomes (Tafarodi and Swann, 2001). Self-liking is the part of self-esteem that refers to self-assessment within the context of the social environment. It is an experiential personal assessment of oneself as a social object (Damon and Hart, 1988). Goals are internal representations of desired outcomes, events and processes (Austin and Vancouver, 1996). There are different classifications of goals, but most researchers (e.g. Helgeson, 1994; Kotre, 1984; McAdams, 1993, Pöhlmanna and Brunsteina, 1997) differentiate between agency and communion goals. This concept is based on Bakans' (1966) work in which he identified agency and communion as the “fundamental modalities” of human existence (pp. 14). Agency-oriented goals indicate the individual’s effort to have an effect on his/her material and social environment, while communion-oriented goals refer to developing or maintaining social relations (Pöhlmann and Brunstein, 1997). Our goals were also operationalised as agency- and communion-oriented short-term goals. SMS describes the aspiration to achieve goals; therefore, we examined the level of goal aspirations. Since we assessed self-esteem and AM functions related to the period preceding the research, we decided to examine the level of achievement of the goals as well. The goal of this research was to examine the relationship between short-term goals aspiration and achieved short-term goals and AM functions and self-esteem in order to empirically examine the relations of those variables that make Conway and Pleydell-Pearce’s (2000) working self (as part of SMS model). In addition to examining the working self model, this research also studies the relationship between the subscales of the three latent variables of the same model; agency and communal goals, three AM functions and self-liking and selfcompetence. We assumed that the AM functions would mediate the relationship of short-term goals with both self-liking and self-competence. We also presumed that the relationship between the variables would be the same in the model with goal-achieving aspiration as in the model with achieved goals. We hypothesized that the short-term goals (both agency and communion as well as achieved and aspired) would be statistically significant predictors of all three functions of AM. We also hypothesized that the social and self functions of AM would be stronger predictors for self-liking than for self-competence, while the directive function of AM would be a stronger predictor for self-competence than for self-liking. The data were obtained from 414 first year students (289 female) at the University of Osijek J. J. Strossmayer, Croatia. The main age of participants was M=19.5 (SD=0.83). Participants completed three questionnaires: Scale of short-term student's goals (SKCS; Milić and Vranić, 2017), The Self-Liking/Self-Competence Scale – Revised (SLCS-R; Tafarodi and Swann, 2001) and Thinking About Life Experiences scale (TALE; Bluck and Alea, 2011). Testing was done in two steps. We conducted structural equation modeling (SEM) analyses of two models. We first proposed that achieved goals were associated with AM functions and self-esteem, while AB functions were associated with self-esteem. Associations between achieved goals and both AM functions and self-esteem were positive, while associations between AM functions and self-esteem were negative. The more we accomplish our goals, the more we use AB memory functions and the higher our self-esteem. On the other hand, the more we use AM functions, the lower our self-esteem. The model showed good fit, but it also indicated that AM functions were not a mediating variable between the goals and self-esteem. The model of goal-achieving aspiration, set as the one with the achieved goals, did not show a good fit. When we rearranged the nature of relationship between latent variables, the model's fit was much better than originally proposed. The second model proposed that selfesteem was associated with AM functions via the mediating influence of aspiration to achieve goals. The lower our self-esteem, the more we strive to achieve our goals. The more we strive in achieving our goals, the more we use our AM functions. These results can be explained by people's need to protect, maintain and increase one's self-esteem level (Baumeister, 1998). The participants of this research were first year students and, according to Chung et al (2013), their level of self-esteem was disrupted by their transition from high school to university. Therefore, we can assume that those students whose self-esteem was more disrupted (i.e., is lower) in that transition are more motivated to regain and raise their self-esteem. They can do that efficiently by striving to achieve the goals they set for themselves. In the second part of the analysis, the relationship between subscales of the three latent variables (goals, self-esteem and AM functions) was determined using regression analysis. The results of this analysis revealed that agency-related achieved goals are positive predictors of self function of AM, while communion-oriented achieved goals are positive predictors of all three AM functions. It is possible that the participants were, prior to the research and enrolling in the university, more oriented toward achieving more of the communion–oriented goals than the agency goals and therefore used AM for this purpose. Agency-oriented goals aspiration was a positive predictor of all three AM functions, while communion-oriented goals aspiration was not a statistically significant predictor for any of the three AM functions. According to these results, it appears that only aspirations for agency-oriented goals had an effect on frequency of usage of AM functions. The more we strive in accomplishing agency goals (i.e., goals are not readily accomplished), the more we use AM functions. Analyzing the short-term goal questionnaire items, it is obvious that agency goals were more related to personal development and to the self, while items concerning communionoriented goals are more focused on others. In the model proposed by Conway and PleydellPearce (2000) of the self memory system, the authors consider goals as ongoing and active goals of oneself; therefore, the relationship between striving goals and three AM functions was expected. Also, as participants of this study were first-year university students, it is possible that they were more focused on achieving goals concerning the fulfillment of academic obligations. AM related to currently active goals is more easily accessible than the AM related to currently inactive or passive goals (Moberly and MacLeod, 2006). These results are congruent with the findings of Abel and Wojciszke (2007), who found that students considered agency-related goals to be more important than communion-related goals. As AM functions were predictors of self-esteem in the previously mentioned model with achieved goals, but self-esteem was the predictor of AM functions in the model with striving goals, we cannot conclude the causality in this relations. Those two variables are (negatively) connected, although the nature of that relation is not determined. Examining the correlation between the three AM functions and self-liking and self-competence, we established that only the self-function of AM was (negatively) related to both self-liking and self-competence. The more frequently the self AM function was used, the lower the self-liking and self-competence, and vice versa. This negative connection is the result of operationalization of self-function. Selffunction refers to the use of AM to maintain a sense of being the same coherent person during one's lifetime (Barclay, 1996). It is presumed that one uses AM for this function when one needs to feel that he/she is the same person as he/she was before. The more one is worried about selfconsistency, the lower one’s self-liking and self competence. On the other hand, lower levels of self-liking and self-competence create a greater need for self-inquiry. Similarly, Van den Bos and Lind (2010) found that self-doubt (which can be related to self inquiry) and self-esteem are moderately negatively correlated. Correlation between the self AM function and self-liking is slightly stronger (r = -.25, p > .01) compared to the correlation between self AM function and self-competence (r = -.14, p > .01). These results were expected, as self-liking refers to the social values and skills which one attributes to oneself. Higher levels of self-liking are correlated with greater self-acceptance (Tafarodi and Swann, 2001). Goal striving, both agency and communal-oriented, was a negative predictor of both self-liking and self-competence, while achieved goals were positive predictors of self-liking and self-competence, respectively. If we strive in achieving goals, it is possible that we are not satisfied with the pace of our progress and therefore estimate our self-liking and selfcompetence as being lower. On the other hand, achieved goals may make us feel proud of ourselves and therefore boost our self-competence and self-liking. The aim of our analysis was to study the relationship between latent variables included in the working self, which is part of the larger SMS model (Conway and Pleydell-Pearce, 2000). Although we established that all three variables (goals, AM and self-esteem) are interconnected, we did not confirm the hypothesis that AM function is the mediator between goals and selfesteem. We also cannot determine the direction of the variables’ connections, as the model with achieved goals and model with striving to achieve goals had differently placed directions between variables. Based on the above-mentioned analysis results, we can conclude that we partially confirmed the hypothesis related to relationships between goals and AM functions and between AM functions and self-liking and self-competence, respectively. Also, we can conclude that the self-function of AM is the most appropriate for linking the functional AM theory and SMS model of AM, as only that function is connected to selfliking and self-competence. This research makes several contributions to the literature. This is the first study where all three variables of working self were placed in one model at a time. We also showed that achieved goals can be placed in a model, although Conway and Pleydell-Pearce (2000) did include striving to achieve goals in their SMS model. With this research, we showed that the model that included achieved goals has different directions of connections between variables than the model including striving to achieve goals. This is the first piece of research that connects the SMS model and functional theory of AM. Also, for the first time we examined the connection between AM functions and self-competence and self-liking as well as the relationship between AM function and agency and communion short-term goals. The contribution of this research is also the construction of scale of short-term student goals (SKCS; Milić and Vranić, 2017), which was constructed for the purposes of this research. In future research, it would be very useful to examine a more heterogeneous sample of participants than this group of first-year students. It is presumable that older people and non– students have different short-term goals and therefore may have differently connected variables than examined in this research. Additionally, it would be useful to examine AM function with different instruments to test the established results in this research. Considering that the SMS model originally contained self-concept (instead of self-esteem as in this research), it would be useful to test an established model with that variable. Since the self culturally differs, especially between eastern and western cultures, it would be useful in the future to test the model in different cultures.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Self memory system, autobiographical memory functions, self-function of autobiographical memory, directive function of autobiographical memory, social function of autobiographical memory, agency oriented short term goals, communal oriented short term goals, self-esteem, self-liking, self-competence
Subjects: Psychology > Kognitivna psihologija
Departments: Department of Psychology
Supervisor: Vranić, Andrea
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij psihologije
Date Deposited: 28 Aug 2018 07:30
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2018 07:30

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