Tani, F., Peterson, C., & Smorti, A. (2014). Empathy and autobiographical memory – Are they linked? Journal of Genetic Psychology, 175:3, 252-269. doi: 10.1080/00221325.2013.869534. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00221325.2013.869534


Autobiographical memory and empathy have been linked with social interaction variables as well as gender in independent bodies of literature. However a scarcity of research exists on the direct link between autobiographical memory and empathy. Exploring this link, in particular for memory of friendships and empathy, was the authors’ main aim. A total of 107 Italian undergraduates participated. A memory fluency task was used to assess accessibility of memories spanning their entire life (preschool through university) and an empathy scale (Italian version of the Interpersonal Reactivity Index) was employed to measure the participants’ level and dimensions of empathy. For males, empathy scores were related to how many memories they could recall. Specifically, males with higher scores on the Fantasy and Empathic Concern scales and those with lower scores on the Personal Distress scales recalled more memories of friends. However, affective quality of their memories was unrelated to empathy. In contrast, for women there was no relationship between number of memories and empathy, but the emotional tone of their memories was related to empathy: those with higher scores on the Personal Distress scale had proportionately fewer affectively positive memories. Results are discussed in terms of gender differences in both empathy and parental socialization patterns.