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Self-defining Memories in Normal Aging


Mohamad El Haj* and Karim Gallouj   Pages 1 - 6 ( 6 )


Background: Self-defining memories refer to events that are vivid, affectively intense, and include enduring concerns about oneself.

Objective: We investigated the relationship between the production of these memories in normal aging and the ability to integrate new information into an existing knowledge in memory (i.e., updating).

Method: Older participants were asked to perform an updating task as well as to retrieve autobiographical memories that were later analyzed for their self-defining relevance.

Results: Analyses showed significant positive correlations between updating and the production of self-defining memories.

Conclusion: Updating our life story is an important psychological process, which enables us to refine and enrich our life story with new experiences, roles and/or challenges, and this ability seems to be related to the capacity to produce memories that draw on the pursuit of long-term goals, meaning making, emotional regulation, and/or activation of self-images (i.e., self-defining memories). These findings suggest that updating one’s identity throughout life, at least in normal aging, may be related to the shaping and retrieval of self-defining memories, memories that lead to the creation of narrative scripts, which themselves serve as the ingredients for “chapters” across the lifespan.


Aging; Autobiographical memory; Executive function; Self; Self-defining memories; Updating


Unité de Gériatrie, Centre Hospitalier de Tourcoing, Tourcoing, Unité de Gériatrie, Centre Hospitalier de Tourcoing, Tourcoing

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