Older than 25? Study suggests you've already made your most important memories
Published Wednesday, February 19, 2014 2:09PM EST
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire found that members of an active retirement community had formed the most important memories of their lives by the time they were 25 years old.
When participants were asked to tell their life stories, they tended to focus on major milestones and transitions, which occurred early on in their lives.
“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,” the study’s lead researcher Kristina Steiner said in a news release.
Those important moments include “a physical move, attending college, a first job, marriage, military experience, and having children,” said Steiner, who studies autobiographical memory.
Researchers spoke with 34 members, ages 59 to 92, of the retirement community. All participants were white, and 76 per cent had earned at least an undergraduate degree.
Steiner said she conducted the study to find out why adults, when asked to recount their life stories, focus overwhelmingly on events that occurred early on in life -- something known as a “reminiscence bump.”
A reminiscence bump is defined as the tendency for older adults to recount memories formed between the ages of 15 and 30.
“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.”
When participants in Steiner’s study were asked to tell their life story in 30 minutes, researchers found that they divided their stories into “chapters,” with a pronounced reminiscence bump between the ages of 17 and 24.
And by looking at life narratives, “researchers can predict levels of well-being and psychological adjustment in adults,” Steiner said. “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.”