Personal autonomy is derived from the autobiographical memory of an individual and serves to explain the self-expression of a person. Cultural and social values serve to explain the general behavior of groups and norms that tie a group together. The general claims usually made are that social and personal behaviors are both functionally and structurally related. The intent of this paper will be to examine the relationship between personal and group identity based on the relation between memory functionalism, collective memory and cultural myths.
Memory that constitutes an individual’s episodes is most of the time not shared with groups. Instead, episodes that are mostly shared are thoughts about the world and predictions about future events. It is mostly accepted that unshared group memories that surface in a group can influence the future group memories of other group memories. The influence takes place by reminding the group members of forgotten recollections (CUC, OZURU and MANIER, 2006, p.752).
Narratives explain the actions in time and place by connecting events through physical relationships geared towards a certain outcome. These narratives serve as genesis of stories, historical accounts, fairy tales, religious mythology and heroic deeds. It is common for all human beings to have cultures entailing these narratives that encode and bind the shared beliefs from which they derive consistency and cohesiveness of groups (Nelson, 2003, p.126).
Study done in the past shows the ultimate goal served by language for ancient people was narrative. In this context, narratives enriched the culture which solidified social structures providing similar ways of understanding and conceptualizing the world. Individuals take part in these myths and may contribute to them, but their role is communal, not personal. The cultural ties came to be from an organized individual memory that serves as the constituent structure of cultural groups. Therefore, the constituent personal memory encapsulated in the individual self develops through narratives into the cultural archive, forming a structure of cultural belief system (Nelson, 2003, p.127).
Cultures based on myths have expectations of recurrence of events, where the past repeats itself in the future. Individuals usually do not compose or try to build onto the existing culture, but rather prefer to dwell on their future aspirations (Nelson, 2003, p.128). This trend brings out an emerging individualistic personality permeated in society practices and institutions. The act of individualism in the ancient times was propelled further due to the varying economic arrangements. For example, manufacture of goods such as textiles shifted to commercial sectors from extended households, requiring individuals to establish their own individual economic units to stop depending on their family’s wealth. Therefore, traditional families disintegrated as children left home to seek fortunes in urban areas.
There are three proposed idiosyncratic modes of time: narrative, historical and mythic. Each provides different perception about the world. Historical time explains causal sequences while mythic time on the contrary explains the cyclical nature of people who repeat events of those came before them. Therefore, narrative time is a characteristic of autobiographical memory. Many individuals are governed by experimental or transactional time. In this context, transactional time refers to the cultural arrangement of seasonal, routine and societal significant events. These activities encompass greater significance since they are done rather than told (Nelson, 2003, p. 128). The participation in these activities contributes to a great magnitude to an individual configuration. Furthermore, transactional time forms the framework of autobiographical memories, which make up the society’s moral values and beliefs. On the other hand, collective memory investigation is how different recollections become shared. The researchers undertake a task of investigating the influence of conversations in examining group recounting, conversational remembering and collaborative remembering. The main interest is on the influence of joint remembering has on subsequent remembering of things with the hope that this influence leads to configuration of collective memory (CUC, OZURU and MANIER, 2006, p. 758).
Autobiographical memory can be classified as imaginative. This is because despite the constraints of reality, the autobiographical memory always projects in the future. These considerations of realism reveal the closeness between fiction and autobiographical memory. Researchers, in support of the realism argument reviewed the emergence of realization of a child through the medium language when the kid is of age of 4 years. Below this age, only an implicit self of the kid is seen to exist by the researchers. Therefore, the language as a medium is not viewed as endowing capabilities of self-expression, but the idea of language constituting the individual self in its own make up (Nelson, 2003 p.130).
Researches in Euro-American societies show that autobiographical memory starts developing at the age of three and half years and most adults recall memories from early childhood. The research shows that many parents start talking to their children about memories when they are of this age. However, the adult’s talks differ in their emphasis and forms, majority being elaborative while others being more narrative by nature. Contemporary cultural disparities in autobiographical memory have been recognized in a series of studies. Research shows that members of Asian societies account for fewer autobiography memories, and contain fewer and later memories from childhood as compared to Euro-Americans. Therefore, the way the adults talk to their children about the past directly correlates with the children’s memory in the future (Nelson, 2003, p.131).
Cultural narratives relate to individual memory in various ways. The move of individualism to personalization of culture speculatively explores pathways and influences in relation to cultural disparities in the role of autobiographical memory. It is evident in the 20th century that child rearing practices have radically revolutionized. This revolution has considerably been spearheaded by changes in the family structures in the form of routine, order and obligation of children toward parents. The former respect accorded to adults, schools, church by children, was replaced by a move of child centered campaign advocating for flexibility of daily chores and freedom of expression (Nelson, 2003, p.132).
The individual realization propelled a substantial increase in cultural diversion with an increase in moral decadence. Unmarried parenting in the 1950s rose to its maximum with single parenting families rising as a consequent. Majority of women left their homes in search for lifetime employment changing the then accepted way of living of households and families. The children born during this era were found to be extremely pervasive towards television, video and music which now occupied much of their time. Therefore, children who grew up during this period had different life expectations in relation to their communities and peers compared to children who grew up 15 years before (Nelson, 2003, p. 133).
Changes in the trends of child-rearing pressurized the educational institutions to react by embracing these changes. During this period, many schools abandoned dress codes, the archaic curriculum and adopted the use of revised textbooks with the introduction of novels in the syllabus. These changes embraced multicultural environment. Individualism in this context conveys autonomy within a society whose values are shared while developing a personality conveys more personal wants independent of the societal demands (Nelson, 2003, p 134).
In conclusion, establishing an autonomous personality is more beneficial before taking one’s niche in the society. Autobiographical memory serves to contribute to an individual growth in both personal and social functions. Developing autonomy from the autobiographical memory distinguishes between an individual and a group. In this regard, an individual expresses himself to others establishing rapport with peers and maintains a unique identity distinct from others. Vanishing of frequent communal narratives, replaced by personal stories makes the addition of individual’s distinct stories to cultural stories possible. The relations between communal forms of memory and individual memory, narratives of self, social and cultural narratives are all keys to understanding the source and explanation of social and self functions of autobiographical memory. Therefore, it becomes possible to claim that there is nothing like single self but somewhat many selves to exist displayed on dissimilar occasions.