Old, New, Borrowed, Blue? The Emergence and Retention of Personal Meaning in Autobiographical Storytelling


  • We would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Western Washington University for funding to complete this project. We also thank the narrative lab at the University of Toronto for data collection, transcription, and coding, and Stephanie Marion in particular for reliability coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Kate C. McLean, Western Washington University, Department of Psychology, MS 9172, 516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225. Email: Kate.McLean@wwu.edu.


ABSTRACT Research on narrative identity has traditionally focused on how narrative characteristics are related to personality and well-being in adults. The present pair of studies with college students (Study 1, n= 62; Study 2, n= 68 couples) examined the dynamic conversational processes that might be part of constructing that identity. We examined the characteristics of personal meanings, operationalized as self-event connections, and the retention of those connections about important past events discussed between new romantic partners. Across the 2 studies, self-event connections that were positive and about stable aspects of the self were more likely to occur. Connections that were retained over 1 month were those that were shared by both teller and listener in an independent postconversation assessment. Discussion focuses on the processes that might contribute to the construction of narrative identity and the importance of positivity, stability, and shared connections in developing and maintaining narrative identity.