Title

Cultural scripts guide recall of intensely positive life events

Abstract

Abstract

In four studies, we examined the temporal distribution of positive and negative memories of momentous life events. College students and middle-aged adults reported events occurring from the ages of 8 to 18 years in which they had felt especially good or especially bad about themselves. Distributions of positive memories showed a marked peak at ages 17 and 18. In contrast, distributions of negative memories were relatively flat. These patterns were consistent for males and females and for younger and older adults. Content analyses indicated that a substantial proportion of positive memories from late adolescence described culturally prescribed landmark events surrounding the major life transition from high school to college. When the participants were asked for recollections from life periods that lack obvious age-linked milestone events, age distributions of positive and negative memories were similar. The results support and extend Berntsen and Rubin's (2004) conclusion that cultural expectations, or life scripts, organize recall of positive, but not negative, events.

Publication Date

6-2007

Journal Title

Memory and Cognition

Publisher

Springer

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

10.3758/BF03193303

Document Type

Article