There are some similarities and differences between Butler's (1963) and Erikson's (1959) theories. The theories are similar on four points. First, both theorists view the final developmental task of reviewing one1s life as a response to the realization of mortality. In other words, both theorists propose that the nearness of death precipitates a life review. Second, both Butler and Erikson agree that this review can often take the form of reminiscence. Third, according to both theories, a positive resolution of the life review results in a reorganization of the personality. Both theorist agree that this positive reorganization can be seen in the older adult as serenity or wisdom. Fourth, both theorists propose that a negative resolution of the life review results in despair and a sense that time is running out. As can be seen there are several similarities between the two theories.
There are also some differences between the two theoretical positions. First, Butler (1963) does not present his theory or conceptualization of the life review as part of an overall personality theory; Erikson (1959) does. Second, Butler does not relate the concept of life review to a series of stages. In other words, according to Butler, the life review can occur at any point across the life-span. The key to the precipitation of the life review is not old age but rather impending death. Erikson (1959), however, places the life review within a context of developmental stages. Third, Butler (1963) maintains that the life review can be done solely by the individual even to the point that the process is primarily outside of the individual1s awareness. Other individuals, according to Butler, are not necessary to the life review process. This can be contrasted with Erikson's (1982) position that the life review is best accomplished with other significant individuals. These represent the major areas of difference between the two theorists.