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  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: November 2012

13 - Theory and research in autobiographical memory: a life-span developmental perspective


The title of this chapter reflects two important organizing features. The first is that it is about autobiographical memory, and the second is that it takes a life-span developmental perspective on that topic. Following chapters by Bauer and Fivush, this is the third of three explicitly developmental chapters in this volume. Developmentalists generally agree that when individuals report a memory, that report may be influenced by memory functions related to encoding, storage, retrieval, and forgetting; the development of the individual since the moment of the event across cognitive, social cognitive, and personality domains; and environmental and cultural factors. Thus, the developmental approach provides a great many challenges.

This chapter is structured to provide the reader with an image of the life-span development of autobiographical memory, but not an exhaustive review of the literature. That would not be possible within the available space. Research on the various topics discussed here is growing rapidly. According to the Web of Science, from 2005 to 2009, over 1,000 articles were published in the area of autobiographical memory, and almost 20 percent of those articles were developmental in nature. The pace of data collection, however, is running ahead of theoretical integration.

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