Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

Dorthe Kirkegaard Thomsen


Profile photoName: Dorthe Kirkegaard Thomsen
Nationality: Danish
Position: Professor
Work place: Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences
Postal address: Bartholins Allé 9, 1340, 349, 8000
Aarhus C, Denmark
Phone: +4587165792


2003: Ph.D. in Psychology, University of Aarhus.
2000: MA in Psychology, University of Aarhus.
1998: BA in Psychology, City University, London

Positions held

2021-present: Chair of the PhD committee and vicehead for talent and research facilitation
2013-present: Professor in psychology, University of Aarhus.
2009-2013: Associate professor in psychology, University of Aarhus.
2006-2009: Assistant professor in psychology, University of Aarhus.
2003-2006: Amanuensis in psychology, University of Aarhus.

Scientific focus area

Life stories, autobiographical memory, emotion, rumination, well-being, psychopathology.

Grants and awards

2018: Carlsberg foundation semper ardens grant for the monography “Storying mental illness”
2015: Aarhus BSS research award
2013: Grant from the Velux Foundation to a project on life story chapters.
2006: Grant from The Danish Council for Independent Research, Humanities to a project on memories, narratives and goals (STERNA).
2004: Grant from The Danish Council for Independent Research, Humanities to a project on memories, life story, identity and emotional well-being.

Publication data

> 60 articles in international, peer-reviewed journals
h-index = 30
Total citations > 3400

Teaching and supervision

Lectures in cognitive psychology (undergraduate)

Research methods (undergraduate)
Research methods (graduate)
Seminars in narrative psychology, personality & well-being, and emotion-memory interactions (undergraduate)
Supervision of >40 master's theses
Supervision of >100 bachelor's theses
Supervision of 10 Ph.D. students
Supervision of one post doc

Public outreach

2016-2017: Writer of scientific articles for Kristeligt Dagblad
2013: Tænkepause “Livshistorien” at Aarhus University Press
2003-present: >25 public lectures on life stories, cognitive psychology, and emotions
2003-present: >20 interviews for newspapers, radio, and magazines


Thomsen, D.K., Pfattheicher, S., & Dunlop, W.L. (in press). Authoring esteem: Writing about vicarious and personal life story chapters boosts state self-esteem. Personality Science.


Thomsen, D.K., Talarico, J.M., & Steiner, K.L. (in press). When does a wedding mark the beginning of a new chapter in one’s life? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology.


Marschall, H., Hansen, K.E., Forman, A., & Thomsen, D.K. (2021). Storying endometriosis: Examining relationships between narrative identity, mental health, and pain. Journal of Research in Personality.


Jensen, R.A.A., Thomsen, D.K., Lind, M., Ladegaard, N. & Fuglsang, V.B. (2021). Storying the past and the future: Agency and communion themes among individuals with  schizophrenia and depression. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease.


From, L., Olesen, M.H., & Thomsen, D.K. (2020). Elite athletes are higher on grit but lower on conscientiousness than a comparison sample of non-athletes. Scandinavian Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2, 2-7.

Jensen, R.A.A., Thomsen, D.K., O'Connor, M., & Mehlsen, M.Y. (2020). Age differences in life stories and neuroticism mediate age differences in subjective well-being. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 34, 3-15.


Jensen, R.A.A., Thomsen, D.K., Fuglsang, V.B., & Ladegaard, N. (2020). Narrative identity in psychopathology: A negative past and a bright but foreshortened future. Psychiatry Research, 290.


Thomsen, D.K., Panattoni, K.W., Allé, M.C., Wellnitz, K.B., & Pillemer, D.P. (2020). Vicarious life stories: Examining relations to personal life stories and well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 88.

Leichtman, M.,Steiner, K., Camilleri, K.A., Pillemer, D.B., & Thomsen, D.K. (2019). Whathappened in kindergarten? Mother-child conversations about life story chapters.Memory, 27, 49-62.

Lind,M., Jørgensen, C.R., Heinskou, T., Simonsen,S., Bøye, R. & Thomsen, D.K. (2019). Patients with Borderline Personality Disorder showincreased agency in life stories after 12 months of psychotherapy. Psychotherapy,56, 274-284.​

Lind, M., Thomsen,D.K., Heinskou, T., Simonsen, S.,Bøye,R. & Jørgensen, C.R (2019). Personal and parents’life stories in patients with borderline personality disorder. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 60, 231-242.

Lundorff, M., Thomsen, D.K.,Damkier, A., & O’Connor, M. (2019). How do loss- and restoration-orientedcoping change across time? A prospective study on adjustment following spousalbereavement. Anxiety, Stress, &Coping, 32, 270-285.

Steiner, K.,Pillemer, D.B., & Thomsen, D.K.(2019). Writing about life story chapters increases self-esteem: Three experimental studies. Journal of Personality, 87, 962-980.

Thomsen, D.K. & Vedel, A. (2019). Relationshipsamong personal life stories, vicarious life stories about mothers and fathers,and well-being. Identity, 19,230-243.

Holm, T., Thomsen, D.K., & Bliksted, V.F.(2018). Themes of unfulfilledagency and communion themes in life stories if patients with schizophrenia. Psychiatry Research, 269, 772-778.

Panattoni, K.W. & Thomsen,D.K. (2018). My partner’s stories: Relationships between personal andvicarious life stories within romantic couples. Memory, 26, 1416-1429.


Thomsen, D.K., Lundorff, M., Damkier, A., & O’Connor,M. (2018). Narrative identity and grief reactions: A prospective study ofbereaved partners. JARMAC, 7, 412-421.

Holm, T & Thomsen, D.K. (2018).Self-event connections in life stories, self-conceptclarity, and dissociation: Examining their relations with symptoms of psychopathology. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 37, 293-317.

Lind, M. & Thomsen, D.K.(2018). Functions of personal and vicarious life stories: Identity and empathy. Memory, 26, 672-682.

Pedersen,A.M., Straarup, K.N., & Thomsen,D.K. (2018). Narrative identity in female patients with remitted bipolardisorder: A negative past and a foreshortened future. Memory, 26, 219-228.

Holm, T., Pillemer, D.B., Bliksted, V. & Thomsen, D.K. (2017). A decline in self-defining memories following adiagnosis of schizophrenia. ComprehensivePsychiatry, 76, 18-25.

Steiner, K.L. Thomsen,D.K., & Pillemer, D.B. (2017). Life story chapters, specific memories, and conceptions of the self. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 31,478-487.

Thomsen, D.K.,Lind, M., & Pillemer, D.P. (2017). Examining relations between aging, life story chapters, and well-being. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 31,207-215.

Thomsen, D.K.& Pillemer, D.B. (2017). I know my story and I know your story: Developinga conceptual framework for vicarious life stories. Journal of Personality, 85, 464-480.

Vedel, A.& Thomsen, D.K. (2017). The darktriad across academic majors. Personalityand Individual Differences, 116, 86-91.


Holm, T., Pillemer, D.B.,Bliksted, V. & Thomsen, D.K. (2017). A decline in self-definingmemories following a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 76, 18-25

Holm, T., Thomsen, D.K.,& Bliksted, V.F. (2016). Life story chapters and narrative self-continuity inpatients with schizophrenia. Consciousnessand Cognition, 45, 60-74.

Thomsen, D.K., Matthiesen, S.,Frederiksen, Y., Ingerslev, H.J., Zachariae, R., & Mehlsen M.Y. (2016). Trait anxiety predicts the emotional valence of meaning-making in life stories: A 10-year prospective study. Personality and Individual Differences, 102, 51-55.

Thomsen, D.K., Steiner,K.L., & Pillemer, D.B. (2016). Life story chapters: Past and future, you and me. JARMAC, 5, 143-149.

Olesen, M.H., Thomsen, D.K., O'Toole, M.S. (2015). Subjective well-being: Above neuroticism and extraversion, autonomy matters. Personality and Individual Differences, 77, 45-49.

Pillemer, D.B., Steiner, K.L., Kuwabara, K.J., Thomsen, D.K., & Svob, C. (2015). Vicarious memories. Consciousness & Cognition, 36, 233-245.

Thomsen, D.K. (2015) Autobiographical periods: A review and central components of a theory. Review of General Psychology, 19, 294-310.

Thomsen, D.K., Jensen, T., Holm, T., Olesen, M.H., Schnieber, A., & Tønnesvang, J. (2015). A 3.5. year diary study: Remembering and life story importance are predicted by different event characteristics. Consciousness & Cognition, 36, 180-195.

Vedel, A., Thomsen, D.K., & Larsen, L. (2015). Personality, academic majors and performance: Revealing complex patterns. Personality and Individual Differences, 85, 69-76.

Steiner, K.L., Pillemer, D.B., Thomsen, D.K. & Minigan, A.P. (2014). The reminiscence bump in older adults' life story transitions. Memory, 22, 1002-1009.

Thomsen, D. K., Olesen, M. H., Schnieber, A. & Tønnesvang, J. (2014). The emotional content of life stories: Positivity bias and relation to personality. Cognition and Emotion, 28, 260-277.

Finnbogadóttir, H. & Thomsen, D.K. (2013). Review: Does maladaptive repetitive thinking affect characteristics of mental time travel? Nordic Psychology, 65, 137-165.

Thomsen, D.K., Jensen, A.B., Jensen, T., Mehlsen, M.Y., Pedersen, C.G. & Zachariae, R. (2013). Rumination, reflection and distress: An 8-month prospective study of colon-cancer patients. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 37, 1262-1268.

Pillemer, D.B., Thomsen, D.K., Kuwabara, K. & Ivecevic, Z. (2013). Feeling good and bad about past and future self. Memory, 21, 210-218.

Avlund, K., Hokland, M., Mehlsen, M., Thomsen, D.K., Viidik, A., Ekman, A. & Zachariae, R. (2012). Differential associations between white blood cell count and fatigue in young and older adults. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 24, 439-447.

Thomsen, D.K., Olesen, M.H., Schnieber, A., Jensen, T. & Tønnesvang, J. (2012). What characterizes life story memories? A diary study of freshmen's first term. Consciousness & Cognition, 21, 366-382.

Thomsen, D.K., Pillemer, D.B. & Ivcevic, Z. (2011). Life story chapters, specific memories and the cultural life script. Memory, 19, 267-279.

Thomsen, D. K., Tønnesvang, J., Schnieber, A. & Olesen, M. H. (2011). Do people ruminate because they haven’t digested their goals? The relations of rumination and reflection to goal internalization and ambivalence. Motivation & Emotion, 35, 105-117

Thomsen, D.K., Schnieber, A. & Olesen, M.H. (2011). Rumination is associated with the phenomenal characteristics of autobiographical memories and future scenarios. Memory, 19, 574-584.

Olesen, M.H., Thomsen, D.K., Schnieber, A. & Tønnesvang, J. (2010). Distinguishing general causality orientations from personality traits. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 538-543.

Ebbesen, S.M.S., Zachariae, R., Mehlsen, M.Y., Thomsen, D.K., Højgaard Jensen, A., Ottosen, L.D.M., Petersen, T., Ingerslev, H.J. (2009). Stressful life events are associated with a poor in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcome: a prospective study. Human Reproduction, 24, 2173-2182.

Thomsen, D.K. & Brinkmann, S. (2009). An interviewer’s guide to autobiographical memory: Ways to elicit concrete experiences and to avoid pitfalls in interpreting them. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 6, 294-312.

Thomsen, D.K. (2009). There is more to life stories than memories. Memory, 17, 445-457.

Thomsen, D.K. & Berntsen, D. (2009). The long-term impact of emotionally stressful events on memory characteristics and life story. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 23, 579-598.

Avlund, K., Mehlsen, M.Y., Thomsen, D.K., Viidik, A., Zachariae, R. (2008). Physical functioning and use of health services in a young and old sample. The influence of fatigue. Danish Medical Bulletin, 55, 147-151.

Thomsen, D.K. & Berntsen, D. (2008). The cultural life script and life story chapters contribute to the reminiscence bump. Memory, 16, 420-436.

Thomsen, D.K. & Jensen, A.B. (2008). Memories and narratives about breast cancer: Exploring associations between turning points, distress and meaning. Narrative Inquiry, 17, 349-370.

Thomsen, D.K., Johansen, M.B., Pedersen, A.F., Jensen, A.B., Zachariae, R. (2007). Breast cancer patients’ narratives about positive and negative communication experiences. Acta Oncologia, 46, 900-908.

Thomsen, D.K. (2006). The association between rumination and negative affect – a review. Cognition and Emotion, 20, 1216-1235.

Berntsen, D. & Thomsen, D.K. (2005). Personal memories for remote historical events: Accuracy and clarity of flashbulb memories related to World War II. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 134, 242-257.

Mehlsen, M., Thomsen, D.K., Viidik, A., Olesen, F. & Zachariae, R. (2005). Cognitive processes involved in the evaluation of life satisfaction: Implications for present well-being. Aging and Mental Health, 9, 281-290.

Thomsen, D.K. & Berntsen, D. (2005). The end point effect in autobiographical memory – more than a calendar is needed. Memory, 13, 846-861.

Thomsen, D.K., Mehlsen M.Y., Viidik, A., Sommerlund, B. & Zachariae, R. (2005). Age and gender differences in negative affect – Is there a role for emotion regulation? Personality and Individual Differences, 38, 1935-1946.

Thomsen, D.K., Jørgensen, M.M., Mehlsen, M.Y. & Zachariae, R. (2004). The influence of rumination and defensiveness on negative emotions in response to experimental stress. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 45, 253-258.

Thomsen, D.K., Mehlsen, M.Y., Hokland, M., Viidik, A., Olesen, F., Avlund, K., Munk, K. & Zachariae, R. (2004). Negative thoughts and health: Associations among rumination, immunity, and health care utilization in a young and elderly sample. Psychosomatic Medicine, 66, 363-371.

Thomsen, D.K., Mehlsen, M.Y., Olesen, F., Hokland, M., Viidik, A., Avlund, K. & Zachariae, R. (2004). Is there an association between rumination and self-reported physical health? A one-year follow-up in a young and an elderly sample. Journal of Behavioural Medicine, 27, 215-231.

Thomsen, D.K. & Berntsen, D. (2003). Snapshots from therapy: Exploring operationalisations and ways of studying flashbulbs for private events. Memory, 11, 559-570.

Thomsen, D.K., Mehlsen, M.Y., Christensen, S. & Zachariae, R. (2003). Rumination – relationship with negative mood and sleep quality. Personality and Individual Differences, 34, 1293-1301.