Theories of autobiographical memory posit that extended time periods (here termed chapters) and memories are organised hierarchically. If chapters organise memories and guide their recall, then chapters and memories should show similar temporal distributions over the life course. Previous research demonstrates that positive but not negative memories show a reminiscence bump and that memories cluster at the beginning of extended time periods. The current study tested the hypotheses that (1) ages marking the beginning of positive but not negative chapters produce a bump, and that (2) specific memories are over-represented at the beginning of chapters. Potential connections between chapters and the cultural life script are also examined. Adult participants first divided their life story into chapters and identified their most positive and most negative chapter. They then recalled a specific memory from both their most positive and most negative chapter. As predicted, the beginning age of positive but not negative chapters produced a bump and specific memories tended to cluster at chapter beginnings. The results support the idea that chapters guide the search for specific memories and that the cultural life script contributes to the search process. © 2011 Psychology Press.
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