It is often assumed that memory is what creates the unique identity of a person. It alters the way people perceive the world, those around them, and even themselves. Someone may remember their childhood, school years, relationships, and this experience seems to build an important part of their identity. Memories indeed have consequences for behavior and personality since many people make decisions based on memories. For example, if someone had a negative experience communicating with family or classmates, that person can grow up shy and reserved. Moreover, many psychologists try to make their patients recall painful memories in order to figure out the source of a mental disorder.
Researchers indicate that there are several types of memory, for example, short-term and long-term. While short-term memory may not have an impact on personality, long-term may have a profound effect. However, Katsumi et al. (2017) also note other types of memory: episodic memory and working memory. The first type of memory is meant for “specific events experienced in everyday life” (p. 1). Working memory, on the other hand, is intended for the manipulation of information. Episodic memory plays a significant role in the development of the personality because traumatic experience, which often leads to psychiatric disorders, is often connected with a negative episode. Besides, that trauma is processed and interpreted through working memory.
It is evident that with the loss of memory, people can lose at least some of their personalities. Such changes are often seen in people with dementia who start to act differently due to memory lapses. For instance, a previously kind and caring woman can turn apathetic or aggressive because of dementia. In fact, personality changes are considered to be one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s. From these factors, it can be concluded that memories are undeniably crucial to the development of identity.
Katsumi, Yuta, Ekaterina Denkova, and Sanda Dolcos. “Personality and Memory.” Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences, edited by Virgil Zeigler-Hill and Todd K. Shackelford, Springer, 2017, pp. 1-9.