Should we remember or forget?
Age, Future Perspective & Healthy Choices
Creating Nostalgic Advertising
Remembering in Environmental Context
Story Asides Project
Functions of Memory: Old and Young in Trinidad and the USA
Story Accuracy in Younger and Older Adults
Taiwanese Women’s Road to Adulthood
Forging Self-Continuity: I Was Therefore I Am
Meaning Making and Subjective Wellbeing in Two Cultures
The Empathy Function of Autobiographical Memory
Development of the Story Quality Index
Development of Wisdom
Reflections of the Self in Earliest Memories
The TALE Scale
The Wisdom of Experience
Meaning in Memories
Age Differences in Phenomenology
The Functional Approach to Autobiographical Memory
A Life Story Account of the Reminiscence Bump
Memories as Directives
Remembering Being Me: The Self-Continuity Function
Emotion in Memory: Narratives vs. Self-reports
Using Autobiographical Memory for Intimacy


Remember and Review or Forget and Let Go? Views from a Functional Approach to Autobiographical Memory

As humans, we show a certain contrariness in our view of remembering, particularly in relation to remembering our own personal past: we love to remember and we love to forget. This article explores this tension, providing a view from the functional approach to autobiographical memory. The benefits of remembering versus forgetting are discussed through exploration of three central questions: (i) What is the goal, the desired outcome, of remembering-forgetting (ii) does one principle, to remember or to forget, apply for both good and bad memories, and (iii) is it ethical to internally or externally manipulate others’ memories to induce forgetting? Using the functional approach, memory is presented not simply as helpful in creating and maintaining well-being. Instead, both positive and negative memories are presented as resources that help us to orient more broadly, as social animals, in time and space.

Bluck, S. (2017). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Remember and Review or Forget and Let Go? Views from a Functional Approach to Autobiographical Memory. The International Journal of Reminiscence and Life Review, 4(1), 3-7.


Age, Future Perspective & Healthy Choices

Regardless of age, making healthy lifestyle choices is prudent. Despite that, individuals of all ages sometimes have difficulty choosing the healthy option. We argue that individuals’ view of the future and position in the life span affects their current lifestyle choices. We capture the multidimensionality of future thinking by assessing 3 types of future perspective. Younger and older men and women (N = 127) reported global future time perspective, future health perspective, and perceived importance of future health-related events. They also rated their likelihood of making healthy lifestyle choices. As predicted, older participants indicated greater intention to make healthy choices in their current life than did younger participants. Compared to younger participants, older participants reported shorter global future time perspective and anticipated worse future health but perceived future health-related events as more important. Having a positive view of one’s future health and seeing future health-related events as important were related to greater intention to make healthy lifestyle choices, but greater global future time perspective was not directly related to healthy choices. However, follow-up analyses suggested that greater global future time perspective indirectly affected healthy choices via a more positive view of future health. None of these relations were moderated by age. Individuals’ perspective on the future is shown to be an important multidimensional construct affecting everyday healthy lifestyle choices for both younger and older adults. Implications for encouraging healthy choices across the adult life span are discussed.

Tasdemir-Ozdes, A., Strickland-Hughes, C. M., Bluck, S., & Ebner, N. C. (2016). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Future perspective and healthy lifestyle choices in adulthood. Psychology and Aging, 31(6), 618-630.


Creating Nostalgic Advertising: Reminiscence Bump Memories Influence Positive Psychological Reaction and Purchase Intent

This study examined the influence of the reminiscence bump within nostalgic content in advertisements. A 3 (time-frame: bump advertisements, non-bump past advertisements, the present-focused advertisements) x 2 (age group: Gen X, late-stage Boomers) between-subject design was used to examine the effect of positive psychological reactions and marketing variables (i.e., ad attitude, brand attitude, purchase intent). The results showed that nostalgic advertisements with the bump year elicited higher psychological reactions compared to both those with non-bump past year and the present year. In addition, compared to the advertisements with the present year, the advertisements with the bump year elicited more positive attitudes toward advertisements and a higher purchase intent. The effect of time-frame on purchase intent was mediated by psychological reactions. Lastly, overall, late-stage Boomers elicited higher positive psychological reactions, higher positive attitudes toward advertisements, and a higher purchase intent when compared to Gen X.

Ju, I., Choi, Y., Morris, J., Liao, H., & Bluck, S. (2016). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Creating Nostalgic Advertising Based on the Reminiscence Bump: Diachronic Relevance and Purchase Intent. Applied Cognitive Psychology.


Remembering in Environmental Context: Functions of Autobiographical Memory in Taiwanese and American Men and Women

The study addresses environment-level (i.e., culture, gender) and person-level factors influencing men and women’s use of memory to serve adaptive functions. The focus is on self-continuity and social-bonding functions though the directive function is also explored. Taiwanese (N = 86, 53 women) and American (N = 95, 51 women) men and women in emerging adulthood completed the Thinking about Life Experiences scale, as well as measures of trait personality, elf-concept clarity and future time perspective. Findings show that individuals from both cultures use memory to serve these three functions, but Taiwanese individuals use memory more frequently than Americans to maintain self-continuity. Environment-level findings were moderated by person-level factors: in Taiwan, but not America, the memory is more frequently used to create self-continuity in individuals high in trait conscientiousness. Across cultures, having lower self-concept clarity was related to greater use of memory to create self-continuity. In terms of gender, women more frequently talk about their personal past than men but this does not result in greater functional use of their memories. Findings are discussed in terms of how memory serves functions in ecological context, and the specific aspects of Taiwanese and American culture that may relate to functional use of memory.


Story Asides Project

Older adults sometimes exhibit higher levels of off-target verbosity during story recall than do young adults. This appears as the inclusion of extraneous information not directly relevant to the topic. Some production of such material has been clearly related to cognitive decline, particularly older adults’ inability to inhibit production of irrelevant information. In tandem, however, research also suggests that some extraneous information is indirectly related to the topic and may reflect age differences in communicative styles. To further elucidate the social– cognitive aspect of this issue, the question of import is: What is the content of the additional information provided by participants during story recall? The present study answers this question. Grounded in the autobiographical memory and life story literatures, we introduce the construct, story asides, and a reliable content-analytic scheme for its assessment. Young and older adults (N 129) recalled 1 of 2 types of stories: a personal autobiographical memory or an experimenter-generated fictional story. Narratives were reliably coded for story asides. As expected, older adults produced more story asides than young adults only for autobiographical stories. The discussion focuses on the role of story asides in everyday communication including the possibility that they may be a sign of communicative expertise.

Bluck, S., Alea, N., Baron-Lee, J. M., & Davis, D. K. (2016). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Story Asides as a Useful Construct in Examining Adults’ Story Recall. Psychology and Aging.


Functions of Memory: Old and Young in Trinidad and the USA

Multiple and interacting contextual (culture, life phase) and person-specific predictors (i.e., personality, tendency to think-talk about the past) of the functions of autobiographical memory were examined using the Thinking about Life Experiences scale. American (N = 174) and Trinidadian (N = 182) young and older adults self-reported how frequently they remembered the personal past to serve self, social, and directive functions, how often they thought and talked about their past overall, and completed a measure of trait personality. Contextual and person-specific predictors were found for using memory to serve a social-bonding function: Americans, young adults, those higher in extraversion, lower in conscientiousness, and individuals who frequently think and talk about the past more frequently use autobiographical memory to create and maintain social bonds. Across cultures, younger adults report more frequently using memory to serve all three functions. Findings are discussed in terms of the individual’s embeddedness in culture and life phase when remembering. Extending the study of the functions of autobiographical memory to new cultures provides insight into why human beings remember their personal past.

Hsiao-Wen Liao, Susan Bluck, Nicole Alea & Ching-Ling Cheng (2015). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Functions of autobiographical memory in Taiwanese and American emerging adults, Memory.


Story Accuracy in Younger and Older Adults

Sharing stories is an important social activity in everyday life. This study used fine-grained content analysis to investigate the accuracy of recall of two central story elements: the gist and detail of socially-relevant stories. Younger (M age = 28.06) and older (M age = 75.03) American men and women (N = 63) recalled fictional stories that were coded for (i) accuracy of overall gist and specific gist categories and (ii) accuracy of overall detail and specific detail categories. Findings showed no age group differences in accuracy of overall gist or detail, but differences emerged for specific categories. Older adults more accurately recalled the gist of when the event occurred whereas younger adults more accurately recalled the gist of why the event occurred. These differences were related to episodic memory ability and education. For accuracy in recalling details, there were some age differences, but gender differences were more robust. Overall, women remembered details of these social stories more accurately than men, particularly time and perceptual details. Women were also more likely to accurately remember the gist of when the event occurred. The discussion focuses on how accurate recall of socially-relevant stories is not clearly age-dependent but is related to person characteristics such as gender and episodic memory ability/education.

Davis, D.K., Alea, N., & Bluck, S. (2015). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 The Difference Between Right and Wrong: Accuracy of Older and Younger Adults’ Story Recall. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12, 10861-10885.


Taiwanese Women’s Road to Adulthood

Two studies examined identity development in emerging adulthood. The objectives of Study 1 were to demonstrate that Taiwanese college students frequently experience emerging adulthood (already demonstrated in Western culture), and to test for expected gender differences in attaining adulthood. Study 2 delineated how women’s current identity status and their narrative identity predict psychological well-being. In Study 1, 361 Taiwanese participants (216 females; M age = 20.64, SD = 1.82) completed the Markers of Adulthood Questionnaire. In Study 2 (99 females; M age = 20.66, SD = 2.38) Taiwanese women reported Ego Identity Status and, to assess narrative identity, provided a self-defining memory of a turning point in their life. Narrative interpretation sequences (redemption-contamination) were reliably coded from the memories. A Psychological Well-Being scale was also administered. As predicted, the majority of Taiwanese men and women report being in emerging adulthood. Women are less likely to see themselves as adults, or as having attained adult markers (i.e., family capacity and social independence). Women’s psychological well-being was predicted by identity status as well as redemptive interpretation sequences in their self-defining memories. The factors affecting Taiwanese women’s ability to forge an adult identity, and consequences for well-being, are discussed

Liao,H., Bluck, S., Cheng, C. (2015). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Young Women in Today’s Taiwan: Relation of Identity Status and Redemptive Narration to Psychological Well-Being. Sex Roles, 73, 258-272.


I Was Therefore I Am: Creating Self-Continuity Through Remembering Our Personal Past

Beginning at least in adolescence, humans are unique from other animals in the combination of having a conscious, reflective self and being aware of their movement through chronological time. Together, these create the need to maintain a sense of self-continuity across the lifespan. We review theory and research from the autobiographical memory and reminiscence literatures, arguing that maintaining self- continuity is a central function of remembering the personal past. A two-level conceptual model of self-continuity is proposed that acknowledges both the passage of chronological time in human lives and the malleability of retrospective views of one’s past. In presenting this model, we aim to ignite further research on the central roles played by reminiscence and autobiographical memory processes in maintaining and re-forging self-continuity over time. Such research is significant given the essential place of self-continuity in human adaptation and thriving.

Bluck, S., & Liao, H.W. (2013). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 I Was Therefore I Am: Creating Self-Continuity Through Remembering Our Personal Past. The International Journal of Reminiscence and Life Review, 1(1), 7-12.


Meaning Making and Subjective Wellbeing in Two Cultures

Two studies in different cultures (Study 1: USA, N 174, Study 2: Trinidad, N 167) examined whether meaning making, (i.e., both searching for meaning, and directing behaviour) is positively related to subjective well-being (SWB) by age (younger, older adults). In both studies, participants self-reported engagement in meaning making, and SWB (e.g., affect, future time perspective, psychological wellbeing). In Study 1, young Americans (compared to older) more frequently used their past to direct behaviour but doing so was unrelated to SWB. In older Americans, both types of meaning making were positively associated with SWB. In Study 2, Trinidadian younger adults were again more likely than older adults to engage in meaning making. Unlike in the American sample, however, directing behaviour was positively related to SWB for both young and older adults. The studies demonstrate that whether meaning making shows benefits for SWB may depend on type of meaning, age and culture. Note that although meaning making was sometimes unrelated to SWB, no detrimental relations to meaning making were found. The discussion focuses on the role of moderators in understanding when meaning making should lead to benefits versus costs to SWB.

Alea, N., & Bluck, S. (2013). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 When does meaning making predict subjective well-being? Examining young and older adults in two cultures. Memory, 21(1), 44-63.


The Empathy Function of Autobiographical Memory

Previous research has suggested there are three distinct categorical functions of autobiographical memory (AM): social bonding (communicative), directive (preparation for current and future behaviors) and self-continuity. (Bluck & Alea, 2002). One theorized social function of AM is eliciting empathy. The current study investigates the role of AM sharing in increasing empathy towards individuals perceived as in chronic pain. Participants empathy levels were assessed after reading a journal entry narrative written by a person of varying age (25 or 85) in chronic pain (pre-test) and again after assignment to one of two conditions (post-test). Conditions were set as either sharing one’s own AM of having been in pain, or as a comparison, thinking aloud about the author by recalling the pain narrative. Personality, memory characteristics, and memory functions were also assessed. Findings indicate that empathy levels (i.e., Perspective-taking) increased after sharing an autobiographical memory but not in the comparison condition. Participants did not show age biases but reported equal empathy for the young and old narrator. Regression analyses identified frequency of functional use of memory and the personal significance of the shared memory as predictors of post-test empathy. Findings are discussed in the context of the functional uses of autobiographical memory and in relation to formal and informal care-giving for younger and older adults in chronic pain.

Bluck, S., Baron, J., Ainsworth, S., Gesselman, A., & Gold, K. (2013). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Eliciting Empathy for Adults in Chronic Pain through Autobiographical Memory Sharing. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21, 81-90.


Development of the Story Quality Index

Nearly all humans tell stories, but whether a person recalls a good story can have outcomes for both the storyteller and listener. Previous research on story quality has not employed a standard tool for measuring quality, and has not reported whether men and women raters of different ages judge story quality similarly. The current study addresses whether dimensions of story quality represent a unitary index that is consistent across men and women of different ages. The first specific aim is to determine whether lay-raters of different ages and genders use a newly developed rating tool reliably (i.e., consistently) to evaluate story quality. The second specific aim is to assess whether the identified dimensions form a general factor of global story quality such that the ratings can be combined into a story quality index. Dimensions of story quality were drawn from the existing literature as well as through use of a structured focus group (age & gender balanced). The materials were autobiographical and fictional stories provided by 129 older and younger men and women about a date with a partner. Findings showed that young and old men and women lay-raters did indeed judge the quality of the memory stories consistently. Results also showed that multidimensional story ratings hang together to form an index of story quality that holds for both types of stories, and is maintained in groups of men and women, and older and younger adults. The Story Quality Index is a useful new tool for the standard assessment of story quality across different types of stories and individuals.

Baron, J., & Bluck, S. (2011). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 That was a good story! Preliminary construction of the perceived story quality index. Discourse Processes, 48(2), 93-118.


Development of Wisdom

There are many human virtues- for example, honesty, intelligence, and bravery. Wisdom is a unique virtue revered across all cultures. What is wisdom and how does one develop it? This study, in collaboration with Dr. Judith Gluck, University of Vienna, Austria, examines these questions through use of a survey appearing in the German-language magazine GEO. The study involves 2,276 participants ranging in age from 13 to 93 years old who responded to a questionnaire in the magazine. To examine how people conceptualize wisdom (i.e. implicit theories of wisdom) rated various concepts, such as empathy, intelligence, and self-reflection on a 5-point Likert-type scale, indicating the extent to which each is considered an essential aspect to wisdom. To assess how people believe that one becomes wise, that is, how wisdom develops, participants also judged the effectiveness of possible methods of becoming wise using similar scales. Items include such “roads to wisdom” as studying philosophy, having faced uncertainty and learning from wise people.The final question asked participants to evaluate their own perceived level of wisdom. The data are currently being analyzed to examine what people believe wisdom is and, perhaps more importantly, how one can gain this revered virtue. Differences in conception of wisdom and how it develops will be examined across age and gender groups, and in relation to self-rated wisdom.

Glück, J., & Bluck, S. (2011). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Laypeople’s conceptions of wisdom and its development: Cognitive and integrative views. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 66(3), 321-324.


Reflections of the Self in Earliest Memories

Based on the self-memory system model (SMS; Conway, Singer, & Tagini, 2004) of autobiographical memory, this study uses a large sample of young and middle-aged adults to investigate the relation between individuals’ current self-characteristics and the content of both their earliest childhood memory and a recent memory. In the first session, participants’ current self-characteristics were assessed. In the second session, individuals provided a written narrative of their earliest childhood memory and a more recent memory (within-participants design) and rated the self themes present in each memory. In keeping with the SMS model, findings show that current self-characteristics were reflected in individuals’ memories. As predicted, however, recent memories were more frequently linked to current self characteristics than were earliest memories. All six current self-characteristics predicted the inclusion of these themes in recent memories, but only four self-characteristics were associated with memory themes in earliest memories. The relation between current self-characteristics and memory themes did not differ across young and middle-aged adults, suggesting developmental stability in these relations. Findings provide general support for the SMS model but also suggest possibilities for its extension and refinement.

Demiray, B., & Bluck, S. (2011). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 The relation of the conceptual self to recent and distant autobiographical memories. Memory, 19(8), 975-992.


The TALE Scale

Theory suggests that autobiographical remembering serves several functions. This research built on previous empirical efforts (Bluck, Alea, Habermas, & Rubin, 2005) and introduces a brief, valid measure of three functions of autobiographical memory. Participants (N = 306) completed 28theoretically derived items concerning the frequency with which they use autobiographical memory to serve a variety of functions. To examine convergent and discriminant validity, participants rated their tendency to think about and talk about the past, and measures of future time orientation, self-concept clarity, and trait personality. Confirmatory factor analysis of the function items resulted in are specified model with 15 items in three factors. The newly developed Thinking about Life Experiences scale (TALE) shows good internal consistency as well as convergent validity for three sub-scales: Self-Continuity, Social-Bonding, and Directing-Behavior. Analyses show factorial equivalence across age and gender groups. Potential use and limitations of the TALE are discussed. The pdf below (2011) contains a copy of the scale and scoring instructions.

Related Readings:

Bluck, S., Alea, N., Habermas, T., & Rubin, D.R. (2005). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 A tale of three functions: the self-reported uses of autobiographical memory. Social Cognition, 23(1), 91-117.

Bluck, S., & Alea, N. (2011). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Crafting the tale: construction of a measure to assess the functions of autobiographical remembering, Memory, 19(5), 470-486.


The Wisdom of Experience

The project examines the types of life situations to which wisdom is applied, the types of behaviors that are engaged in that individuals consider wise, and the outcomes of events in which wisdom has been used in everyday life. Adolescents, young adults, and older adults recalled a time from their own life when they “said, thought, or did something wise.” Interviews were coded for the type of events that elicit wisdom, what was done that was wise and the outcome. For all participants the elicitor was usually a negative event but the outcome was positive. The types of wise behaviors remembered differed by age: adolescents reported empathy and perspective-taking, young adults reported self-determination and assertion, and older adults reported having balance and flexibility. It appears that personal conceptions of one’s own wisdom differ with age and may have a developmental trajectory.

In a second study, we examined how wisdom-related events differ from stories that people tell of times when they were foolish and times when they had a ‘peak experience’ in life. Comparison of these autobiographical narratives show that wisdom (but not foolishness) occurs in response to major, significant life events, particularly those involving life decisions and reactions to negative events. Wisdom narratives show unique thoughts, feelings and behaviors (e.g. empathy) that occur neither in peak experiences nor foolish narratives.

Bluck, S., & Glück, J. (2004). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Making things better and learning a lesson: experiencing wisdom across the lifespan. Journal of Personality, 72(3), 543-573.

Glück, J., & Bluck, S., Baron, J., & McAdams, D.P. (2005). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 The wisdom of experience: autobiographical reports across adulthood. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 29(3), 197-208.

Glück, J., & Bluck, S. (2011). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Laypeople’s conceptions of wisdom and its development: Cognitive and integrative views. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 66(3), 321-324.


Meaning in Memories

Previous research has suggested that the death of a loved one challenges assumptions about life, making it necessary to develop coping skills, or meaning-making strategies, to make sense of the event. Instances of such strategies were expected to be preserved in individuals’ autobiographical memories of death-related events years after they had occurred. Participants ( N= 52 ) provided memory narratives of death and low point events ( i.e., as a comparison ), life lessons learned from each event, and ratings of the characteristics of their memories ( e.g., emotion, rehearsal ). Results show that death memory narratives exhibit more meaning-making strategies, are rated as more emotionally positive, and are more frequently rehearsed than memories of low-points. Both death and low point events lead to the learning of life lessons. Results are discussed in terms of how meaning is preserved in memory over time.

Mackay, M., & Bluck, S. (2010). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Meaning-making in memories: a comparison of memories of death-related and low point life experiences. Death Studies, 34(8), 715-737.


Age Differences in Phenomenology

The phenomenology of younger and older adults’ positive memories provide insight into how they recreate and narrate the stories of their lives. How emotional and how well structured our memories are may influence the extent to which we are able to find listeners for the stories we tell. The characteristics of positive autobiographical memory narratives were examined in younger and older adults. Narratives were content-coded for the extent to which they contained indicators of affect, sensory imagery, and cognition. Affect was additionally assessed through self-report. Young adults expressed more positive affect and less sensory imagery in their memory narratives than did older adults. Age differences in cognitive characteristics also appeared: younger adults showed greater causation-insight, and greater tentativeness in retelling their autobiographical memories. Controlling for episodic memory ability eliminated age differences in positive affect but did not affect age differences on other memory characteristics. Results are discussed in terms of the role that positive autobiographical memories play in daily emotional life across adulthood.

Bluck, S., & Alea, N. (2009). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Characteristics of positive autobiographical memories in adulthood. The International Journal of Aging & Human Development, 69(4), 247-265.


The Functional Approach to Autobiographical Memory

Our program of research relies on a functional approach to investigate autobiographical memory (AM) in everyday life. This approach relies on studying cognition, in this case AM, taking into account the psychological, social, or cultural-historic context in which it occurs. Areas of interest include understanding to what ends AM is used by individuals and in social relationships, how it is related to other cognitive abilities and emotional states, and how memory represents our inner and outer world. One insight gained by taking this approach is that levels and types of accuracy need not always be regarded as memory ‘failures’ but are often integral to a self-memory system that serves a variety of meaningful ends of human activity. Previously hypothesized functions of AM fall into three broad domains: self, social, and directive. The following articles further describe the functional approach to autobiographical memory.

Related readings:

Bluck, S. (2003). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Autobiographical memory: exploring its functions in everyday life. Memory, 11, 113-123.

Bluck, S., & Alea, N. (2002). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Exploring the functions of autobiographical memory: why do I remember the autumn? Critical Advances in Reminiscence: From Theory to Application, 61-75. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Bluck, S., & Alea, N. (2009). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Thinking and Talking about the Past: Why Remember? Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 1089-1104.


A Life Story Account of the Reminiscence Bump

The reminiscence bump is one of the most robust findings in the autobiographical memory literature: adults recall a larger number of events from the second and third decade of life than from other periods. Berntsen and Rubin (2002, 2004; Rubin & Berntsen, 2003) proposed a life-script account of the reminiscence bump that explains why the bump is found for positive but not for negative life events. The current project extends the life-script account by taking a life-span developmental approach, proposing a life-story account for the bump. This new account argues that events in the reminiscence bump are characterized not only by positive valence but by high perceived control over the event, and high perceived influence of the event on one’s later development.

Predictions from this account were tested and confirmed in analyses of 3541 life events collected from 659 participants aged 50 to 90 years. Only high-control positive events showed a reminiscence bump, and these events were rated as more influential on later development than events showing any other combination of valence and control. Findings are discussed in terms of an extension of the life-script account to embrace both the principles of lifespan development and the personal creation of a life story by which autobiographical memory is organized.

Glück, J., & Bluck, S. (2008). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Looking back across the life span: A life story account of the reminiscence bump. Memory & Cognition, 35, 1928-1939.


Memories as Directives

The study examines the relation of experience with death to death attitudes and to how autobiographical memories are used by comparing people who had just signed up to work with Hospice ( Novice ) with people who already had several years of experience as Hospice volunteers ( Experienced ). Participants (N = 52) completed standard death attitude measures and wrote narratives about a death-related autobiographical memory and (for comparison) a memory of a low point in their life. Self-ratings of the memory narratives were used to assess their functional use. Results show that higher levels of experience with death were related to lower levels of death anxiety and avoidance. Participants with higher levels of death experience also more frequently used their death-related memories to serve adaptive functions. For example, experienced volunteers reported using their death-related memories to serve social purposes: they reported sharing their death experiences to get to know other people better, to develop greater intimacy in relationships, and to teach or advise others.

Related Readings:

Bluck, S., Dirk, J., MacKay, M., & Hux, A. (2008). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Life experiences with death: Relations to death attitudes and to the use of death-related materials. Death Studies, 32, 524-549.


Remembering Being Me: The Self-Continuity Function

What is the function of remembering one’s personal past? Literatures converge to identify three fundamental functions of autobiographical memory: self, social, and directive. This project focuses on the role of autobiographical memory in maintaining self-continuity. Self-continuity refers to the knowledge and experiential sense of being the same person over time regardless of changes in one;s environment, in social relationships, and across ontological development. People need to maintain self-continuity: memory for one’s self in the past is an important form of self-knowledge (Neisser, 1988) that is necessary for achieving current goals (Conway, Singer, & Tagini, 2004) and is related to well-being. Do individuals consciously use autobiographical memory to promote self-continuity? In this stud, using the Thinking About Life Experiences Questionnaire, younger and older adults self-reported the frequency with which they use autobiographical memory to develop and maintain self-continuity. Individuals who reported low levels of self-concept clarity reported more frequently recalling their personal past to try to create self-continuity. Mediation analyses show that it is younger adults, who have lower levels of self-concept clarity, who most frequently draw on their personal past to create continuity. The extent to which individuals use autobiographical memory in the service of self-continuity may depend on the psychosocial tasks faced in their specific life phase.

Bluck, S., & Alea, N. (2008). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Remembering being me: the self continuity function of autobiographical memory in younger and older adults. In F. Sani (Ed.), Self continuity: Individual and collective perspectives (pp.55-70). New York, NY: Psychology Press.


Emotion in Memory: Narratives vs. Self-reports

Though autobiographical remembering is a common means of emotional expression in everyday life, rarely have autobiographical narratives been used to assess emotion. In the present study, young and older adults’ self-reports and narratives of the salience, frequency and intensity of emotional reactions to a “real-world” emotional event were compared. Self-reports and autobiographical narratives tell different stories about certain aspects of emotion. For example, self-report measures and narratives both indicate greater salience of emotion late in life. In contrast, older adults more frequently expressed negative affect, particularly sadness, in their narratives, but not in self-reports.

Alea, N., Bluck, S., & Semegon, A. (2004). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Young and older adult’s expression of
emotional experience: Do autobiographical narratives tell a different story? Adult Development, 11(4), 235-250.

Alea, N., Diehl, M., & Bluck, S. (2004). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Personality and emotion in late life. Encyclopedia of Applied Psychology, 1-10. San Diego, CA: Elsevier.

Levine, L.J., & Bluck, S. (2004). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Painting with broad strokes: happiness and the malleability of event memory. Cognition and Emotion, 18, 559-574.


Using Autobiographical Memory for Intimacy

Maintaining intimate relationships is important for well being across adulthood. How is intimacy fostered over a lifetime? One theoretical claim is that we use autobiographical memories of others to keep them close. Person characteristics (age and gender) and memory characteristics (e.g., vividness) were examined as predictors of increases in intimacy after autobiographical remembering. Sixty-five young and older men and women in long-term relationships remembered and shared two events about their partner. Intimacy (both closeness and warmth) was assessed before and after remembering. Participants made several ratings of the memories’ characteristics, representing three indices: emotional re-experiencing, vividness and rehearsal. A series of hierarchal regression analyses indicate that person and memory characteristics matter.

Older adults and younger adults both benefit from the intimacy function of autobiographical remembering. Women, however, show greater benefits than men. Characteristics of the memories seem to matter more than age and gender. Memories that have been often rehearsed lead to greater feelings of closeness, regardless of whether the person remembering is young or old, male or female. Similarly, vivid memories are more predictive (than personal characteristics) of individuals’ reports of the level of warmth in their relationship after remembering. It appears that the intimacy function of autobiographical memory is served across adulthood, as long as memory quality is preserved.

Alea, N., & Bluck, S. (2003). Adobe_PDF_file_icon_24x24 Why are you telling me that? A conceptual model of the social function of autobiographical memory. Memory, 11, 165-178.</span271

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