Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

Self-narrative focus in autobiographical events: The effect of time, emotion, and individual differences

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  • David C. Rubin, Duke University
  • ,
  • Dorthe Berntsen
  • Samantha A. Deffler, York College of Pennsylvania
  • ,
  • Kaitlyn Brodar, Miami University

Individuals may take a self-narrative focus on the meaning of personal events in their life story, rather than viewing the events in isolation. Using the Centrality of Event Scale (CES; Berntsen & Rubin in Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44, 219–231, 2006) as our measure, we investigated self-narrative focus as an individual differences variable in addition to its established role as a measure of individual events. Three studies, with 169, 182, and 190 participants had 11, 10, and 11 different events varied across the dimensions of remembered past versus imagined future, distance from the present, and valence. Imagined future events, events more distant from the present, and positive events all had increased self-narrative focus, in agreement with published theories and findings. Nonetheless, CES ratings for individual events correlated positively with each other within individuals (r ~.30) and supported a single factor solution. These results are consistent with a stable individual differences tendency toward self-narrative focus that transcends single events. Thus, self-narrative focus is both a response whereby people relate individual events to their life story and identity and an individual differences variable that is stable over a range of events. The findings are discussed in relation to narrative measures of autobiographical reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMemory and Cognition
Volume47
Issue1
Pages (from-to)63-75
Number of pages13
ISSN0090-502X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Autobiographical memory, Centrality of Event Scale, Episodic future thinking, Individual differences, Self-continuity

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