My Memory, Myself: The Role of Culture in Memory and Self-Identity

By Ulrich, Clare | Human Ecology, June 2004 | Go to article overview

My Memory, Myself: The Role of Culture in Memory and Self-Identity


Ulrich, Clare, Human Ecology


Qi Wang, an assistant professor of human development, is breaking new ground at the interface of social and cognitive development by revealing the diverse paths by which children acquire memories and develop self-identity. Her research compares the development of memory in Chinese and European American children and draws conclusions about how memory shapes, and is shaped by, concepts of the self in the context of culture.

**********

Wang is particularly interested in the influence of cultural norms on the emergence and development of autobiographical memory, which she defines as memory of significant personal experiences from an individual's life and thus an integral part of one's self and identity. "Our research has shown systematic differences in the ways that young children in different cultures remember their personal experiences and describe themselves. These differences indicate that the framework of culture is embodied in the construction of memory and self from the very beginning," explains Wang. "The development of memory and self is not merely a cognitive achievement, nor is it solely constrained by an individual's immediate social setting. Differing cultural values and beliefs that are embedded in everyday activities shared between parents and children play a crucial role in shaping the mode in which memory and self-identity are established and maintained."

A study Wang published in Developmental Psychology in 2004 is among the first to look at young children's first memories. Ninety-three European American children from Ithaca, New York, and 87 Chinese children from Beijing, China, participated. The children ranged in age from four to eight years, and all came from middle-class backgrounds. In addition to asking the children to reconstruct memories from the past, Wang's interviewers also asked the children to describe themselves.

Each child was interviewed at school in two stages. Before beginning the project, the interviewer spent time in the classrooms to allow the children to become familiar with them. After an initial warm-up exchange between the interviewer and the child, each child was asked four open-ended questions related to remembered events and assured that there were no right or wrong answers. The children were asked to describe how they spent their last birthday, to recall a time when their mother or father scolded them for something, to talk about one thing they had done recently that was special and fun, and to identify the first thing that they could remember.

In the second part of the interview, the interviewer used two open-ended techniques to get the children to describe themselves. The interviewer told the child: "I would like to write about you, to write something that will tell about you. What is the first thing I should put in what I write about you?" After each response, the interviewer encouraged the children to continue describing themselves until the children indicated that they were finished. The other part of this query was to ask the children to complete sentences beginning with "I am." Again, the children were prompted to continue until they indicated that they were finished.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Wang's data revealed significant differences between the responses of European American and Chinese children. American children's accounts of remembered events were longer, more detailed, and more emotional. They also tended to focus on themselves, the roles they played, their actions, and their personal opinions about whether they liked or disliked events. Chinese children provided less detailed and less emotional accounts of past experiences than their American peers, and their accounts often focused on daily routines. Instead of focusing on their own roles or predilections, they emphasized social interactions and frequently referred to their relationships to other people. While both groups of children placed their autobiographical accounts in an interpersonal context, American children perceived themselves as the central character in these accounts, whereas Chinese children tended to see themselves acting within a group. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

My Memory, Myself: The Role of Culture in Memory and Self-Identity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.