Age Differences in the Content of Self-Defining Autobiographical Memories

  • Francesca Falzarano Fordham University
  • Jillian Minahan Fordham University
  • Karen L. Siedlecki Fordham University


Research has consistently shown that age is related to phenomenological memory characteristics (e.g., increased vividness is associated with increased age).  However, little research has examined age-related qualitative differences in autobiographical memories. Thus, the purpose of the current study was to examine qualitative differences in the content of self-defining memories across age.  Two hundred sixty-one individuals between the ages of 18 and 94 provided self-defining memory descriptions that were systematically categorized as part of a content analysis. No meaningful differences in content were identified across the three age groups.  Word analysis was also conducted, and no differences in word choice were found across age. Results therefore suggest that the content of and the words used to describe self-defining memories are not significantly influenced by age. 

Keywords: aging, autobiographical memory, positivity effect, self-defining memory


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Unpublished manuscript, University of California, Santa Cruz.