What characterizes life story memories? A diary study of freshmen's first term

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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


We investigated whether memories are selected for the life story based on event characteristics. Sixty-one students completed weekly diaries over their first term at university. They described, dated and rated two events each week. Three months after the end of the term they completed an unexpected memory test. They recalled three memories from the diary period that were important to their life story. Three randomly selected events scoring low on importance to the life story functioned as control memories. Life story memories were rated higher on goal relevance, emotional intensity, importance and rehearsal in the diary and maintained their higher ratings at the test session, while ratings for control memories dropped off. Life story memories' content was less consistent over time but they were more accurately dated than control memories. The results suggest that event characteristics play an important role for the selection of life story memories.

Original languageEnglish
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)366-82
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Denmark
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Journal Article
  • Life Change Events
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Practice (Psychology)
  • Records as Topic
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Students

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