The Language of Memory: Narrating Memories of Parents and Friends

Andrea Smorti1, *, Carole Peterson2, Franca Tani3
1 Department of Education Sciences and Psychology, Psychology Unit, University of Florence, Firenze, Italy
2 Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's NL, Canada
3 Department of Department of Health Sciences – Psychology Unit, University of Florence, Firenze, Italy

© Smorti et al.; Licensee Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Education Sciences and Psychology, University of Florence, Via di San Salvi, 12 – Padiglione 26 – 50135 Firenze, Italy; Tel: +390552755026; Fax: +39055666400; E-mail:


The purpose of this study was to compare narrated memories of parents and friends, recounted by both males and females. A total of 177 Italian undergraduates were asked to recall and to write in detail one relevant memory regarding their relationship with either parents or friends during adolescence. Half of the participants wrote a narrative about parents and half about friends. Narratives were examined using both a content and a lexical linguistic method of analysis.

The results showed that the language of memories was substantially influenced by the identity of the social partners that were part of the remembered events. In particular the ratio of negative emotion words to all words and the use of 'I' personal pronouns were higher when participants recounted memory narratives about parents rather than friends, and 'We' was used more in narratives about friends. Gender differences were found as well. The authors interpret the results as suggesting that the language of memory is affected by the type of interpersonal relationship that exists between the narrator and the other participants in the remembered events as well as by the gender of the narrator. In other words, memory narratives both reflect and are influenced by the relationships within which an individual is embedded.

Keywords: Adolescence, Autobiographical memory, Autobiographical narrative, Gender differences, Language, Parent influences, Peer influences.