Autobiographical event memory and aging: older adults get the gist

Matthew D. Grilli, Signy Sheldon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


We propose that older adults’ ability to retrieve episodic autobiographical events, although often viewed through a lens of decline, reveals much about what is preserved and prioritized in cognitive aging. Central to our proposal is the idea that the so-called gist of an autobiographical event is not only spared with normal aging but also well adapted to serve memory-guided behavior in older age. To support our proposal, we review cognitive and brain evidence indicating an age-related shift toward gist memory. We then discuss why this shift likely arises from more than age-related decline and instead partly reflects a natural, arguably adaptive, outcome of experience, motivation, and mode-of-thinking factors. Our proposal reveals an upside of age-related memory changes and identifies important research questions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1079-1089
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • aging
  • autobiographical memory
  • episodic memory
  • event cognition
  • naturalistic memory
  • semantic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Autobiographical event memory and aging: older adults get the gist'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this