Not all semantics

Similarities and differences in reminiscing function and content between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

Emma Nile*, Penny Van Bergen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This study explored why and how Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians remember the past. Indigenous Australians traditionally share a strong oral tradition in which customs, personal and cultural histories, and other narratives are passed across groups and between generations by word of mouth. Drawing on this tradition, in which inherent value is placed on sharing knowledge and maintaining connectedness with others, we hypothesised that Indigenous Australians would be more likely than non-Indigenous Australians to report reminiscing to fulfil social functions (but not self or directive functions). Furthermore, we hypothesised that Indigenous Australians would recall personal past experiences more elaborately than would non-Indigenous Australians. In Study 1, 33 Indigenous Australians and 76 non-Indigenous Australians completed Webster's Reminiscence Functions Scale. As predicted, Indigenous participants reported higher scores on subscales related to social functions than did non-Indigenous Australians: particularly “Teach/Inform” and “Intimacy Maintenance”. They also scored higher on the “Identity” subscale. In Study 2, 15 Indigenous and 14 non-Indigenous Australians shared three memories from the distant and recent past. While Indigenous and non-Indigenous narratives did not differ in either emotion or elaboration, Indigenous Australians provided more memory context and detail by including a greater proportion of semantic memory content. Taken together, these findings suggest differences in both why and how Australians remember.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages16
JournalMemory
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2015

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