Remember Me: Virtues in Self-Defining Memories Across Adulthood


  • Meghan McDarby Washington University in St. Louis
  • Emily Mroz University of Florida
  • Brian D. Carpenter Washington University in St. Louis
  • Susan Bluck University of Florida


Autobiographical Memory, Developmental Tasks, Lifespan Development, Memorialization, Narrative Identity


Self-defining memories help one describe the self to others. Identifying virtue (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) in self-defining memories connotes reflection on the self as embodying valued human characteristics. Virtues may be differentially identified in self-defining memories about the current self and memorialized self in young (18–28 years), middle (40–50 years), and older (60–72 years) adulthood. In this study, younger and older participants (N = 202) were randomly assigned to recall a self-defining memory in a current-self or a memorialized-self condition. They rated their self-defining memory for demonstration of five specific virtues.  Unlike middle-aged and older adults, young adults reported more virtue in the memorialized-self condition than the current-self condition at the overall virtue level and across most individual virtues. Prioritization of normative developmental tasks and awareness of time left in life for self-development may motivate current-self or memorialized-self condition differences in identification of virtue in young adults compared to middle-aged and older adults.