Two versions of life: emotionally negative and positive life events have different roles in the organization of life story and identity.
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Over 2,000 adults in their sixties completed the Centrality of Event Scale (CES) for the traumatic or negative event that now troubled them the most and for their most positive life event, as well as measures of current PTSD symptoms, depression, well-being, and personality. Consistent with the notion of a positivity bias in old age, the positive events were judged to be markedly more central to life story and identity than were the negative events. The centrality of positive events was unrelated to measures of PTSD symptoms and emotional distress, whereas the centrality of the negative event showed clear positive correlations with these measures. The centrality of the positive events increased with increasing time since the events, whereas the centrality of the negative events decreased. The life distribution of the positive events showed a marked peak in young adulthood whereas the life distribution for the negative events peaked at the participants' present age. The positive events were mostly events from the cultural life script-that is, culturally shared representations of the timing of major transitional events. Overall, our findings show that positive and negative autobiographical events relate markedly differently to life story and identity. Positive events become central to life story and identity primarily through their correspondence with cultural norms. Negative events become central through mechanisms associated with emotional distress.
Life Change Events
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1037/a0024940
Publication InfoBerntsen, Dorthe; Rubin, David C; & Siegler, Ilene C (2011). Two versions of life: emotionally negative and positive life events have different roles in the organization of life story and identity. Emotion, 11(5). pp. 1190-1201. 10.1037/a0024940. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/9783.
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Juanita M. Kreps Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience
For .pdfs of all publications click here My main research interest has been in long-term memory, especially for complex (or "real-world") stimuli. This work includes the study of autobiographical memory
Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
My research efforts are in the area of developmental health psychology and organized around understanding the role of personality in health and disease in middle and later life. My primary research activity is as Principal Investigator of the UNC Alumni Heart Study (UNCAHS) a prospective epidemiologic study of 5000 middle aged men and women and 1200 of their spouses that evaluates the role of personality on coronary heart disease and coronary heart disease risk, cancer, and normal a
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