TALE OF THREE FUNCTIONS
from a review of the theoretical literature (e.g., Cohen, 1998; Hyman & Faries, 1992; Pillemer, 1992), discussion sections of empirical arti- cles on other aspects of AM in which functions are mentioned (e.g., Nelson, 1993), and book chapters in which previous authors have al- luded to AM’s functions (e.g., Brewer, 1986; Neisser, 1978).
The questionnaire instructions were designed to focus not only on remembering specific episodes and events but also on how past events and larger life periods are connected with the present (i.e., not just AM but also autobiographical reasoning; Habermas & Bluck, 2000). Instructions for the questionnaire read: “Sometimes people think back over their life or talk to other people about their life—it may be about things that happened quite a long time ago or more re- cently. We are not so interested in the times that you think back over specific events as in when and how you bring together and connect the events and periods of your life.”
To establish individuals’ overall tendency for thinking about and talking about the past, participants first provide responses to two in- troductory questions: “How often do you think back over your life?” and “How often do you talk to others about what’s happened in your life so far?” To these items, and throughout the questionnaire, re- sponses were made on a 6–point Likert–type scale, ranging from never (1) to very frequently (6).
After these two general questions, there are 28 items assessing the three theoretical functions of AM. The stem statement for each item is “I think back over or talk about my life or certain periods of my life . . .” Table 1 lists the TALE items corresponding to the theoretically derived self (10 items), social (8 items), and directive (10 items) functions of AM. One version of the questionnaire, with items in random order, was given to all participants.
Reminiscence Functions Scale. Although the TALE and the RFS mea- sures are unique in several ways, they also have conceptual overlap: both measure individuals’ self–reported reasons for thinking or talk- ing about some aspect of the past. Thus, the RFS (Webster, 1993) was included in the current study to assess convergent validity of the newly developed TALE. We expected some, but not full, overlap be- tween these measures of reminiscence functions and AM functions (see Bluck & Alea, 2002; Webster, 2003).
The RFS is a 43–item measure that assesses the functions of remi- niscing. Items were originally generated empirically by having par- ticipants list, in open–ended form, reasons for reminiscing. It since