Autobiographical reasoning in life narratives buffers the effect of biographical disruptions on the sense of self-continuity

Memory. 2015;23(5):664-74. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2014.920885. Epub 2014 Jun 9.


Personal identity depends on synchronic coherence and diachronic continuity of the self. Autobiographical remembering and autobiographical knowledge as well as the stability of bodily integrity, of social roles, of significant others and of physical and sociocultural environment have been suggested as supporting a pre-reflective sense of self-continuity. Stark biographical discontinuities or disruptions in these areas may destabilise the sense of self-continuity. To test the hypothesis that autobiographical reasoning in life narratives helps to compensate the effects of biographical discontinuities on the sense of self-continuity, life narratives of a lifespan sample with the ages of 16, 20, 24, 28, 44 and 69 (N = 150, 78 female) were investigated. Results confirm that if, and only if there have been biographical disruptions in the past four years, then autobiographical reasoning correlates positively with a sense of self-continuity. The findings contradict the thesis that mere remembering of past episodes is sufficient to maintain a sense of self-continuity under conditions of biographical change.

Keywords: Autobiographical reasoning; Autonoetic consciousness; Life story; Personal identity; Self-continuity.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall
  • Narration*
  • Self Concept*
  • Young Adult