Document Type


Source of Publication

Memory, Mind and Media

Publication Date



Autobiographical memories play a vital role in shaping personal identity. Therefore, individuals often use various methods like diaries and photographs to preserve precious memories. Tattoos also serve as a means of remembering, yet their role in autobiographical memory has received limited attention in research. To address this gap, we surveyed 161 adults (68.9 per cent female, M = 26.93, SD = 6.57) to explore the life events that motivated their tattoos and to examine their most significant memories. We then compared these findings with significant memories of 185 individuals without tattoos (80.0 per cent female, M = 31.26, SD = 15.34). The results showed that the majority of tattoos were inspired by unique life events, including specific events about personal growth, relationships, leisure activities, losses, or diseases. Even when not directly tied to specific events in life, tattoos still reflect autobiographical content, such as mottos, beliefs, and values. Furthermore, the most significant memories of younger tattooed individuals (20–24 years) tended to be more normative and less stressful compared to those of their non-tattooed counterparts in the same age group, though the nature of these memories varied. This difference was not found among older participants (30–54 years). Additionally, those without tattoos indicated to use specific objects and methods for preserving important events, suggesting tattoos are only one of several ways to reminisce. However, tattoos uniquely allow for the physical embodiment of autobiographical memories, indicating that engraving significant life events in the skin aids in reflecting on one’s life story.




Cambridge University Press (CUP)




Social and Behavioral Sciences


identity, memory objects, normative life events, tattoos events

Scopus ID


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Indexed in Scopus


Open Access


Open Access Type

Hybrid: This publication is openly available in a subscription-based journal/series