The emotional content of life stories: Positivity bias and relation to personality

Dorthe Kirkegaard Thomsen, Martin Hammershøj Olesen, Anette Schnieber, Jan Tønnesvang

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We examined whether past and future negative life story events, compared to past and future positive events, were less likely to be related to life story chapters and situated at a greater temporal distance from the present. We also examined relations between life stories and personality traits. Three hundred ten students and 160 middle-aged adults completed a measure of personality traits and identified chapters as well as past and future events in their life story. All life story components were rated on emotion and age. Negative future events were less likely to be a continuation of chapters and were more temporally distant than positive future events. Extraversion and Conscientiousness were related to more positive life stories, and Neuroticism was related to more negative life stories. This suggests that the life story is positively biased by minimising the negative future, and that the construction of life stories is related to personality traits.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)260-277
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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