Why we recall certain memories
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Reminiscence bump (RB) is the enhanced recollection of autobiographical memories (AMs) from adolescence and young adulthood (approximately 10–30 years of age) by people over 30 years. Several theoretical accounts have been proposed to explain the bump, the most prominent of which are the narrative/identity account, the cultural life script (CLS) account, and the life story account. This doctoral project examined the relative plausibility of those accounts on senior Pakistani nationals and young Malaysian participants.
According to the narrative/identity account, the events occurring during adolescence and early adulthood are vital to the development of an individual’s adult identity. Experiences acquired during this period are integrated into an individual’s lifelong narratives, therefore, better recalled later in life. The CLS account emerged to explain some novel findings that there is a bump for positive events but no bump for negative events, which the narrative/identity account could not readily explain. According to this account, every society holds common expectations about the order and timing of important life events that are highly positive but not for those that are highly negative. As society expects that many highly positive events should occur during adolescence and young adulthood, the recollection of AMs is influenced by this expectation, hence, forming the RB. The life story account, which combined the core concepts of the other accounts, suggests that events occurring during adolescence and early adulthood are more novel, distinctive, important, self-relevant, positive, and transitional, therefore, better recalled later in life.
Three studies were designed to test the objectives; two studies on Pakistani older adults and one study on Malaysian young adults. Overall, it was concluded that the narrative/identity account seemed to better explain the results of Study 1. RB for both positive and negative life experiences, as observed in Study 2, challenged the core ideas of CLS account. While examining the relative plausibility of the three accounts in Study 3, the narrative/identity account appeared to be a better explanation of the bump than the CLS account and the life story account. However, as the CLS account and the life story account have also received partial support in Study 3, hence, it is suggested that all the three accounts have merits in explaining the bump. The findings can be used to design individualized therapeutic programs for depression, PTSD, autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders, alcohol dependence syndrome, memory disorders, and schizophrenia.