Reconciling a phenomenological with a functional approach to memory: narrative coherence and its social function

Lauranne Vanaken, Theodore E.A. Waters, Yannick Boddez, Patricia Bijttebier, Dirk Hermans

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


To date, the phenomenological and functional aspects of autobiographical memory have by and large been studied separately. This is quite remarkable, given that both can inform each other, and that investigating their interaction can add to the understanding of the (in)adaptivity of certain memory characteristics for our well-being. In other words, examining how particular features of autobiographical memory are adept or inept at serving specific functions, could help us to better comprehend and explain relations between memory and psychological well-being. We discuss previous attempts to integrate phenomenology with functionality and formulate three main directions for future research based on the current state of the art. The directions concern (1) focusing on functionality (adaptivity) and not merely on the use of memories in phenomenological work, (2) attention for the bidirectionality of the relation between phenomenology and functionality, and (3) the addition of narrative constructs like coherence to the traditional range of phenomenological features. We will illustrate our directions for the reintegration of phenomenology with functionality through the social function of coherent autobiographical memories. This framework could help to stimulate future empirical studies and pave the road for new clinical interventions to improve psychological well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)354-368
Number of pages15
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2022


  • Autobiographical memory
  • narrative coherence
  • psychological well-being
  • social function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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