Research Projects

Below is a list of some of the former, current, and future projects coming out of the TALE Lab. Recent selected publications are listed. Publications with current and former UCSB undergraduate students are denoted with an asterisks (*). For a full list of publications please see Dr. Albada's CV.

Note that Dr. Albada publishes under her maiden name, Nicole Alea.

Functions of Autobiographical Memory from Young Adulthood to Old Age

Humans remember autobiographical events in everyday life for a variety of reasons or functions. What are those functions, and do they vary across the adult lifespan? In our work, three functions have been identified: the self function is about using autobiographical memories to better understand who one is and if they have changed or remained the same over time, the social function involves using autobiographical memories as a way to bond with others, and the directive function involves using autobiographical memories to guide or direct one's behavior and decisions. These three function have been identified using self-report measures (the Thinking About Life Experiences - TALE - Scale), experimental paradigms, and content coding of autobiographical narratives. We are also beginning to examine differences in functions served when autobiographical memories are shared in-person versus online (e.g., via Skype). Age group differences in these three autobiographical memory functions usually coincide with adult life phase tasks.


Alea, N., Bluck, S., & Sharma, S. (2021). Remembering the personal past across adulthood. In K. W. Schaie & S. Willis (Eds.), Handbook of the Psychology of Aging, 9th Edition (pp. 237-247). Elsevier.

Westerhof, G. J., Alea, N. & Bluck, S. (2020). Narrative and identity: The importance of our personal past in later life. In A. Gutchess & A. Thomas (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Cognitive Aging: A Life Course Perspective (pp. 383-399). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Bluck, S., Alea, N., & Mroz, E. L. (2019). Form follows function: Autobiographical memory in ecological context. In J. Mace (Ed.), The organization and structure of autobiographical memory (pp. 93-110). Oxford University Press. 

Alea, N., Bluck, S., Mroz, E. L., & *Edwards, Z. (2018). The social function of autobiographical stories in the personal and virtual world: An initial investigation. Topics in Cognitive Science (TopiCS), 1-17.

Alea, N., Arneaud, M. J., & Ali, S. (2013). The quality of self, social, and directive memories: Are there adult age group differences? International Journal of Behavioural Development, 37, 395-406.

Bluck, S. & Alea, N. (2011). Crafting the TALE: Construction of a measure to assess the functions of autobiographical remembering. Memory, 19, 470-486.

Alea, N. & Bluck, S. (2007). I’ll keep you in mind: The intimacy function of autobiographical memory. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 21, 1091-1111.

Alea, N. & Bluck, S. (2003). Why are you telling me that? A conceptual model of the social function of autobiographical memory. Memory, 11, 165 – 178.

Cultural Differences in Remembering the Personal Past

Culture permeates almost all aspects of human life, and autobiographical memory is no exception. Most of our work on cultural differences in autobiographical memory has involved comparing the cultural context of the Caribbean (i.e., Trinidad and Tobago) to the American cultural context. We have found cultural differences in: the reasons why people remember autobiographical events (e.g., Americans are more self-focused), which life events tend to be remembered best (e.g., Trinidadians tend towards remembering negative life events), and the benefits of remembering on well-being outcomes (e.g., Americans benefit most from reflecting on the self). These differences are related to the values (e.g., individualism, collectivism) that people from different cultures hold. Our plan for the future is to extend this work by examining autobiographical memory in Asian cultures.


Park, S., Park, J. H., Hong, I., Kim, T. H., Alea, N., & Bluck, S (2024). Validating the Korean Version of the Thinking About Life Experiences Scale (TALE-K). Applied Cognitive Psychology, 38, e4168.

Alea, N., Ali, S. & *Ali, W. A. (2021). Ethnic group differences in autobiographical memory characteristics: Values as a mediator or moderator? Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 10, 74-84.

Alea, N., & Ali, S. (2018). Same TALE in another culture: Validation of the Thinking About Life Experiences Scale in a multi-ethnic Trinidadian lifespan sample Caribbean Journal of Psychology, 10, 89-125.

Alea, N., Ali, S., & Arneaud, M. J. (2017). What I value and why I remember: Values and the functions of memory in a Trinidadian lifespan sample. International Journal of Reminiscence and Life Review, 4, 8-19.

Alea, N., Bluck, S., & **Ali, S. (2015). Function in context: Why American and Trinidadian young and older adults remember the personal past. Memory, 23, 55-68. 09658211.2014.929704

Alea, N. & Wang, Q. (2015). Going global: The functions of autobiographical memory in cultural context. A Special Issue of Memory, 23, 1-10.

Liao, H.W., Bluck, S., Alea, N. & Cheng, C. L. (2015). Functions of autobiographical memory in Taiwanese and American emerging adults. Memory, 24, 423-436. 

Alea, N., Ali, S., & Marcano, B. (2014). The bumps in Trinidadian life: Reminiscence bumps for positive and negative life events. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28, 174-184. acp.2975

Psychosocial Outcomes of Remembering the Personal Past

We have a body of work exploring the psychological and social benefits of remembering autobiographical experiences, sharing those experiences with others, and variations in these benefits across age, gender, and cultural groups. Data has been collected using self-reports and by content coding themes that emerge during extensive reminiscence groups and life-story interviews. Our work has shown that remembering relationship events, depending on their quality and content, relates to how satisfied couples are in their relationship and how close they feel to their partner (e.g., a sense of "we-ness"). We have also focused on examining whether making meaning out of the experiences that someone remembers from their life, positive and negative, relates to subjective well-being. Our future work is examining to what extent to which finding redemption or that silver lining in negative life events relates to psychological well-being, and if this relation depends on whether redemption is narrated spontaneously or only after being cued.


*Johnson-Yurchak, J. & Alea, N. (2023). Stay positive: The effects of positive affect journaling on emotion during COVID-19. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health. Online first:

*Corcoran, F. & Alea, N. (2021). Remembering the positive and negative: Affective themes as predictors of psychological well-being across adulthood. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 95(2), 166-186.

Alea, N. (2018). Does the life story interview make us make sense? Spontaneous and cued redemption and contamination in life story scenes. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality: Consciousness in Theory, Research, and Practice. 37, 271-29.

Bluck, S., Alea, N., & Baron-Lee, J., Davis, D. K. (2016). Story asides as a useful construct in examining adults’ story recall. Psychology and Aging, 31, 42-57.

Alea, N., Singer, J. A., Labunko Messier, B. L. (2015). “We-ness” in relationship-defining memories and marital satisfaction. In K. Fergus & K. Skerrett (Eds.), Couple resilience across the lifespan: Emerging perspectives (pp. 163-177). New York, NY: Springer.

Alea, N. & Bluck, S. (2013). When does meaning-making predict well-being: Examining young and older adults across two cultures. Memory, 21, 44-63.

Alea, N. , McLean, K., C. & Vick, S. C. (2010). The story of us: Examining marital quality via positive and negative relationship narratives. Marriage: Roles, Stability and Conflicts (pp. 1-29). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Alea, N. & Vick, S. C. (2010). The first sight of love: relationship-defining memories and marital satisfaction across adulthood. Memory, 18, 730-742. 

Alea, N., Vick, S. C., & Hyatt, A. (2009). The content of older adults’ autobiographical memories predicts the beneficial outcomes of reminiscence group participation. Journal of Adult Development, 17, 135-145.

Talking About Life Experiences (TALEs) in Teaching & Learning

This research direction is relatively new and explores the extent to which autobiographical memories are used to teach and inform others in the classroom and in online courses. We are asking questions about whether students remember only the autobiographical story that professors might tell (because it is interesting and entertaining), or also better remember the substantive content of material that is taught by using an autobiographical story. We are also exploring the extent to which autobiographical stories shared in the classroom help to serve socioemotional functions (e.g., enhance empathy and understanding) among students. 

Alea, N., *Jawvitz, S., *Yang, P., & *Adams, P. (2023). The use and functions of students' personal stories in online discussion forums. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 35(1), 101-112.  

Alea, N. (2022). Try telling a story: Why instructors share personal stories with studentsE-xcellence in Teaching Blog Post, APA’s Society for the Teaching of Psychology (Division 2).  

Alea, N. & *Osfeld, M. (2022). The teaching and learning function of personal stories: Correlational and experimental evidence. Teaching of Psychology, Online first, 1-11.  

Alea, N. (2020). So, let me tell you a story! The functions of personal stories in in-person and online classes. Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) Blog, Society for the Teaching of Psychology. 

Personal Stories and Healthcare Settings

Exploring personal stories in healthcare settings is the newest line of research in the TALE Lab. It was sparked by honors thesis students intending to go into healthcare professions, and wanting to explore ways to make the patient-healthcare relationship more empathetic and personable. Sharing personal stories was our answer. Their studies drew from the functions of autobiographical memory literature about using memories to enhance empathy and social bonds and the narrative medicine literature. The work thus far has used experimental paradigms to examine whether telling one's physical or mental health symptoms as a simple list or as a personal story to a "physician" (e.g., chatbot) affects patient-healthcare provider outcomes, like empathy, trust, and general wellbeing. This line of work has also explored the role of personal stories that physicians share in affecting this relationship, and how stories might bridge the gap between patient-physician racial discordance and the credibility of medical doctors compared to physician assistants. 

*Philips, L., Alea, N., & *Yang, P., & Safarnejad, K. (in preparation). Experimental paradigms exploring the role of personal stories of patients and medical professionals on socioemotional outcomes.