The reminiscence bump for salient personal memories: is a cultural life script required?

Academic Article


  • Older adults report a higher frequency of autobiographical memories for experiences that occurred between ages 15 and 30, as compared with other life periods. This reminiscence bump is evident for memories involving positive, but not negative, emotions. The cultural life script hypothesis proposes that people share knowledge for the types and timing of positive landmark events and that this script guides the memory search to the bump period. The present research examined whether a reminiscence bump would be evident when memory cues prompted recall of surprising and unexpected events. Older adults recalled positive and negative, surprising positive and surprising negative, or highly expected and highly unexpected events. Adults' memory distributions were compared with distributions of predicted life events generated by undergraduates. Reminiscence bumps were found not only for memories of positive and expected events, but also for memories of surprising and unexpected events. Implications for the life script account are discussed.
  • Authors

  • Dickson, Ryan A
  • Pillemer, David
  • Bruehl, Elizabeth C
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • August 2011
  • Published In


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cues
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Life Change Events
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychological Tests
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 21424878
  • Start Page

  • 977
  • End Page

  • 991
  • Volume

  • 39
  • Issue

  • 6