Continuity and Correlates of Emotions and Motives in Self-Defining Memories


  • This research was supported by NIA grant AG022057. Correspondence concerning this article and reprint requests should be sent to Gina R. Sutin, Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8686. E-mail:


Abstract Two studies examined emotions and motives in self-defining memories. In Study 1, participants recalled five self-defining memories (four recent and one earliest childhood), rated their emotions and motives during each memory, and completed a set of personality measures. A subset of participants provided a second set of memories, as well as emotion and motive ratings, approximately 2 weeks after the initial session. Results suggest that emotions and motives are moderately stable across memories and over time and show theoretically meaningful relations with self-esteem, narcissism, and affective dispositions. Study 2 extended the findings of Study 1 to a longitudinal context. Emotions and motives coded from self-defining memories were associated with changes in personality, well-being, and academic performance over a 4-year period.