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Characteristics of Self-Defining Memories in Middle-Aged and Older Adults

[ Vol. 14 , Issue. 1 ]


Christine Cuervo-Lombard*, Delphine Raucher-Chéné, Martial Van der Linden and Virginie Voltzenlogel   Pages 39 - 45 ( 7 )


Background: Self-Defining Memories (SDMs) are a specific type of autobiographical memory, which play a key role in the construction of personal identity. </p> Objective: We investigated the characteristics of SDMs in elderly subjects. The originality of the present study is to compare our elderly group to middle-aged subjects instead of young adults, as previously reported in the literature, to understand the age-related modifications in SDMs. </p> Methods: We recruited 41 elderly subjects with normal cognitive functioning and 37 middle-aged adults. They were matched for education level and verbal knowledge. </p> Results: Older participants recalled the same number of specific memories than middle-aged participants. SDMs were predominantly constituted of episodic characteristics, with specific details, in both the groups. However, middle-aged subjects gave more integrative meaning of SDMs and more redemptive events than older participants. The two samples differed in three content dimensions (exploration/recreation, relationship contents, and not classifiable). As predicted, older participants reported memories that were more positive, on average, than the middle-aged participants’ memories. </p> Conclusion: Our study added some contributions to the understanding of the consequences of aging on the sense of self. Future research should explore the continuity of SDMs characteristics across the lifespan.


SDMs, autobiographical memory, cognitive functioning, personal identity, education level, verbal knowledge.


Department of Psychology, Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès University, Toulouse, Department of Psychiatry, University Hospital of Reims, EPSMM, Department of Cognitive Psychopathology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Department of Psychology, Toulouse 2 Jean Jaurès University, Toulouse

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