Looking back across the life span: A life story account of the reminiscence bump
The reminiscence bump is a robust finding in the autobiographical memory literature: Adults recall more events from the second and third decades of life than from other periods. Berntsen and Rubin (2004; Rubin & Berntsen, 2003) proposed a life script account of the reminiscence bump. We extend the life script account by taking a theory-based, life span developmental approach, proposing a life story account for the bump. This account predicts that events in the reminiscence bump are characterized not only by positive valence, but also by high perceived control and high perceived influence on later development. Predictions from the life story account were confirmed in analyses of 3,541 life events collected from 659 participants 50–90 years of age. Only high-perceived-control positive events showed a reminiscence bump, and these events were rated as more influential on later development than were events showing any other combination of valence and perceived control. Findings are discussed in terms of a theoretical extension of the life script account embracing (1) principles of life span development and (2) the personal creation of a life story that helps to organize autobiographical memory.