Another Piece to the Puzzle: Accounting for the Reminiscence Bump

  • Bo Aben Maastricht University
Keywords: Reminiscence Bump, Life Story Account, Life Script Account, Memory Encoding, Age-Related Differences


The reminiscence bump comprises an increase in the recollection of memories from adolescence and early adulthood in older adults and can be elicited by the use of the Crovitz-Shiffman cue word method. Furthermore, the reminiscence bump also comprises less vivid, emotive and significant memories. Multiple accounts provide explanations of this phenomenon, one of which is Fitzgerald’s life-story account. This account entails that the increase in recollected memories is due to the fact that more memories from this period are associated with one’s identity, which starts to develop in adolescence and early adulthood. Secondly, the reminiscence bump can be explained by a life script, which postulates that most of the events that are expected to prevail in one’s life occur during adolescence and early adulthood. Thirdly, an increase in memory encoding during adolescence and early adulthood could explain the increase of recollected memories from this period. Furthermore, based on observed age-related differences in the prefrontal regions and the hippocampus, a new suggestion is put forward to explain the reminiscence bump. To further clarify, advanced age is associated with less episodic memory recall, as reflected by diminished activity in the prefrontal regions. Additionally, a predominantly left-lateralized pattern of activity in the hippocampus with advanced age is associated with the recall of more remote, detailed and emotional memories. Finally, all three accounts and a new suggestion will be discussed in terms of their ability to explain the reminiscence bump. Limitations, implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.