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Memory & Cognition

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 63–75 | Cite as

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

  • David C. RubinEmail author
  • Dorthe Berntsen
  • Samantha A. Deffler
  • Kaitlyn Brodar
Article
  • 248 Downloads

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Author note

We wish to thank Rick Hoyle for statistical advice.

Funding

The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Preparation of this manuscript was supported by Grant DNRF89 from the Danish National Research Foundation and Grant R01 MH066079 from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict interest

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David C. Rubin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dorthe Berntsen
    • 2
  • Samantha A. Deffler
    • 3
  • Kaitlyn Brodar
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Center on Autobiographical Memory ResearchAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark
  3. 3.Department of Behavioral SciencesYork College of PennsylvaniaYorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA

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