We often remember personal experiences without any conscious effort. A piece of music heard on the radio may stir a memory of a moment from the past. Such occurrences are kwn as involuntary autobiographical memories. They often occur in response to environmental stimuli or aspects of current thought. Until recently, they were treated almost exclusively as a clinical phemen, as a sign of distress or a mark of trauma. In this invative work, however, Dorthe Berntsen argues that involuntary memories are predominantly positive and far more common than previously believed. She argues that they reflect a basic mode of remembering that predates the more advanced strategic retrieval mode, and that their primary function may simply be to prevent us from living in the present. Reviewing a variety of cognitive, clinical, and aesthetic approaches, this mograph will be of immense interest to anyone seeking to better understand this misunderstood phemen.
Dorthe Berntsen is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Aarhus.