The reminiscence bump without memories: the distribution of imagined word-cued and important autobiographical memories in a hypothetical 70-year-old

Jonathan Koppel, Dorthe Berntsen

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Abstract

The reminiscence bump is the disproportionate number of autobiographical memories dating from adolescence and early adulthood. It has often been ascribed to a consolidation of the mature self in the period covered by the bump. Here we stripped away factors relating to the characteristics of autobiographical memories per se, most notably factors that aid in their encoding or retention, by asking students to generate imagined word-cued and imagined ‘most important’ autobiographical memories of a hypothetical, prototypical 70-year-old of their own culture and gender. We compared the distribution of these fictional memories with the distributions of actual word-cued and most important autobiographical memories in a sample of 61–70-year-olds. We found a striking similarity between the temporal distributions of the imagined memories and the actual memories. These results suggest that the reminiscence bump is largely driven by constructive, schematic factors at retrieval, thereby challenging most existing theoretical accounts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-102
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Volume44
Early online date1 Jul 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Word-cued memories
  • Reminiscence bump
  • Important memories
  • Cultural life script
  • Autobiographical memory

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