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Autobiographical Across the Lifespan     5     

For instance, the importance of social networks would require a young adult to utilize autobiographical memories as a guide to critical social functions related to that period in life. These functions could include intimacy and finding a spouse. This would differ for the social functions of autobiographical memories in midlife which could be to utilize past autobiographical memories as a means of directing one’s current action to future goals based on those past experiences. Furthermore, in old age autobiographical memories could be utilized to adapt to the losses of friends and spouses that may be occurring in the lives of individuals. Autobiographical memories can help to manage this loss and memories can serve to maintain the elderly self-identity.  

Research Methods

Now that a distinction has been made between the various components of autobiographical memory the research that is utilized to examine autobiographical memory across the lifespan must be explained.

One method of testing autobiographical memory is referred to as the Life Line Interview (Schroots et al., 2004). This method requires the participant to draw a line across a piece of paper with dips and peaks. This line is drawn to represent the course of a human life which has many ups and downs. The participant then has to label one end of the line birth and write out descriptors of the peaks and dips and denote ages for those points. The Rapport Time Line method is similar to the previous approach (Schroots et al., 2004).  Here participants just draw a straight line across a page and are asked to mark significant life events and their age at the time of those events.

Another common method used is described as the Fitzgerald study (Schroots et al., 2004). When this method is utilized, participants are asked to write down four events

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