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Are semantic and episodic autobiographical memories influenced by the life period remembered? Comparison of young and older adults

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Autobiographical memory consists of a person’s personal history and contributes to building a feeling of identity and continuity. Aging affects episodic autobiographical memory negatively, whereas semantic autobiographical memory is preserved or even enhanced in older adults. The study aim was to analyze whether these hypotheses continue to find support, or if there are differences when these memories are analyzed according to the components of life cycle retrieval. The sample was composed of 151 participants: 78 young and 73 older adults. Subjects were evaluated with the Autobiographical Memory Interview. A mixed ANOVA was performed for semantic memory with two groups and three life periods (childhood, youth–adulthood, and recent life). The main group effect was not significant, but the effects of the life period and the life period × group interaction were significant. When analyzing episodic memory, the main effects of the life period and group were significant, but their interaction was not. Young people have better episodic memory than older adults, and they show a similar episodic memory pattern during the three life periods evaluated. The semantic memory of the older adults is preserved, and the reminiscence bump and recent life scores are similar in both groups.

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This research was supported by Grant PSI2016-77405-R (AEI/FEDER, UE) from the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad.

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Correspondence to Juan C. Meléndez.

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Responsible editor: H.-W. Wahl.

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Meléndez, J.C., Agusti, A.I., Satorres, E. et al. Are semantic and episodic autobiographical memories influenced by the life period remembered? Comparison of young and older adults. Eur J Ageing 15, 417–424 (2018).

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