Evaluation of Methodologies for Testing the Sense of Self and Emotional Episodic Autobiographical Memory
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Previous research suggests that episodic autobiographical memory (EAM), autonoetic consciousness and sense of self rely on one another. The basolateral amygdala (BLA) is thought to play a crucial role in EAM, because of its involvement in the consolidation of emotional memory. The goal of this research is to provide methodologies to eventually investigate the sense of self in human subjects with selective BLA damage and thus determine the role of the BLA in sense of self. In this exploratory study, we aimed to investigate whether the proposed methodologies (i.e. the Sense Of Self Scale (SOSS), the Behavioural and Experience checklist (BE-checklist), the autobiographical Implicit Association Test (aIAT) and the Mental Time Travel task (MTT)) are sufficiently valid and reliable for measuring the relation between sense of self, emotional EAM and their underlying concepts. We collected data from 52 Dutch female students, who performed the SOSS, the BE-checklist, the State and Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the aIAT online. In addition, 10 of the 52 participants performed the MTT task offline. Results show a good internal consistency of the SOSS and a relationship between SOSS scores, BE-checklist scores and STAI scores. Furthermore, we found a strong predictive value of negative emotional valence on weak sense of self. Both autonoetic consciousness and emotional intensity were found to have a significant correlation with (p)re-experiencing emotions. The results indicate a potential usability for the SOSS, the BE-checklist, the STAI and the MTT task to measure the link between sense of self, EAM and their underlying concepts. Thus, they provide other researchers with a possible conceptual and methodological framework to study the sense of self. However, more research is needed to determine causal relationships and to further improve this research paradigm. Keywords: sense of self, emotional episodic autobiographical memory, autonoetic consciousness, trait anxiety, mental time travel.