Self-defining Memories

Self-defining memories form a specific component of the autobiographical memory. They concern memories that clearly disclose what kind of person one is and how one has become that person. Identity memories do not differ solely in terms of content and positive or negative valency. The specificity of the memories also differs: some memories relate to specific events in life, others to broader themes and periods. In addition there is a difference in the degree of integration of, and in the significance accorded to, identity memories.

In this research we are studying the relationship between the characteristics of identity memories with mental health and well-being. Following a preliminary study among 177 people aged 50 years and older, who voluntarily agreed to take part in the research, a pilot study was conducted among more than 200 people participating in the Centerdata LISS panel. This is a long-running online panel study conducted amongst a representative sample of the Dutch population. A large scale study is currently being undertaken in the LISS panel. In the space of a year, 2000 participants are asked to complete the self-defining memory task three times. This study is the first in the world to investigate longitudinally these aspects of autobiographical memory within the framework of a representative population study.