February 20, 2014
Study Claims Most Important Memories Made Prior To Age 25
[ Watch the Video: When Do Memories Lose Importance? ]
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe OnlineBad news for those of us over the age of 25: a new study from the University of New Hampshire and the University of Aarhus suggests most people will have already made the most important memories of their lives by then.
As part of their research, lead researcher Kristina Steiner, a doctoral student in psychology at UNH, and colleagues spoke with 34 members of an active retirement community. All of the participants were white, between the ages of 59 and 92, and more than three-fourths of them had earned at least an undergraduate degree.
Each study participant was asked to tell his or her life story in 30 minutes, and one week later, they each divided their biographies into self-defined “chapters.” The researchers observed a pronounced “reminiscence bump” between the ages of 17 and 24, where many people defined chapters of their life story beginning and ending.
“When people look back over their lives and recount their most important memories, most divide their life stories into chapters defined by important moments that are universal for many: a physical move, attending college, a first job, marriage, military experience, and having children,” Steiner explained in a statement Wednesday.
According to the researchers, a reminiscence bump is defined as the period of time between the ages of 15 and 30 when the majority of positive and negative memories are recalled. This study, which the authors claim is the first to utilize a naturalistic approach by collecting free-flowing life stories from participants, appears in a recent edition of the journal Memory.
“Many studies have consistently found that when adults are asked to think about their lives and report memories, remembered events occurring between the ages of 15 to 30 are over-represented,” Steiner said. “I wanted to know why this might be. Why don't adults report more memories from the ages of 30 to 70? What is it about the ages of 15 to 30 that make them so much more memorable?”
“Our life narratives are our identity. By looking at life narratives, researchers can predict levels of well-being and psychological adjustment in adults,” she added. “Clinical therapists can use life narrative therapy to help people work through issues and problems in their lives by helping them see patterns and themes.”
In addition to Steiner, the research team also included UNH developmental psychology professor David Pillemer, UNH undergraduate psychology student Andrew Minigan and University of Aarhus psychology and behavioral sciences professor Dorthe Kirkegaard Thomsen.