Why we remember those times

My university time can be summed up in one word: party. That’s precisely what I did. It’s not a good value I had chosen. But it was a super fun time. I don’t know whether I should regret it or not. Maybe no?

I read the book “The Power of Moments” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. In one of the chapters, they presented a study by some psychologists. The respondents were prompted to think about the life of a baby who had just been born and to predict what would be “the most important events that are likely to take place in this infant’s life.” The result has a unique pattern.

  1. Having children
  2. Marriage
  3. Begin school
  4. College
  5. Fall in love
  6. Others’ death
  7. Retirement
  8. Leave home
  9. Parents’ death
  10. First job

It’s striking that 6 out of the 10 most important events all happen during a relatively narrow window of time: roughly age 15 to 30. (This 6 out of 10 calculation presumes that marriage and kids happen within that window, which of course isn’t true of everyone but is true for most people).

Similarly, if you ask older people about their most vivid memories, research shows, they tend to be drawn disproportionately from this same period, roughly ages 15 to 30. Psychologists call this phenomenon the “reminiscence bump.” Why does a 15-year period in our lives—which is not even 20% of a typical lifespan—dominate our memories?

“The key to the reminiscence bump is novelty,” said Claudia Hammond in her book Time Warped. “The reason we remember our youth so well is that it is a . . . time for firsts—first sexual relationships, first jobs, first travel without parents, first experience of living away from home, the first time we get much real choice over the way we spend our days.”

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