A PSYCHOMETRIC ASSESSMENT OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY TEST IN A SAMPLE OF AFRICAN AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC OUTPATIENTS
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The Autobiographical Memory Test (AMT) assesses overgenerality in memory by presenting a set of positive and negative cue words and instructing participants to recall an autobiographical event related to each word that is specific in time and place. Overgenerality consists of responding to cues with memories that are categories or summaries of similar events rather than specific events. As a cognitive style, overgenerality constitutes a risk factor for the development, maintenance, and exacerbation of depression, as well as suicidality, trauma, problem-solving difficulties, and impaired ability to imagine the future. As might be expected, the focus of research using the AMT has been on the overgenerality and/or specificity of responses. However, not commonly discussed is that frequently participants provide responses that are neither specific nor overgeneral, but reflect an inability to recall an autobiographical memory. These responses consist of comments on the cue words (e. g., “I like being happy”, coded as “semantic associate”) or reports of not having a memory (coded as “omission”). Given that certain populations may exhibit elevated rates of “inability to perform the task” (Beyderman & Young, 2014), this phenomenon within the AMT may be significant in itself. The current study conducted factor structure and IRT analyses of the AMT along the dimensions of both overgenerality and “ability to recall autobiographical memories.” In addition, depressive symptomatology, age, gender, and level of education were examined as potential correlates of the “ability to recall autobiographical memories.” Data came from a sample of 100 African American psychiatry outpatients, 36% of whom met the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder. The results of the present study demonstrated strong support for a single-factor structures of the latent traits of overgenerality and “ability to recall autobiographical memories.” IRT analysis indicated that the AMT functioned well as a measure of overgenerality and “ability to recall autobiographical memories” in the current sample. “Ability to recall autobiographical memories” was not associated with age, gender, or level of education. The implications of these findings for future use of the AMT and further development of the field are discussed.