Most Memorable Events Happen Before 25, Study Claims

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When retirees were asked to recount their life stories, the vast majority of the narratives described memories from when they were 25 or younger AP

It is all downhill from here. Or, more specifically, it is all a wash of monotony while we wait to die.

That’s (sort of) the takeaway of a new study out of the University of New Hampshire, which found that our most memorable life events happen before our mid-twenties. When retirees were asked to recount their life stories, the vast majority of the narratives described memories from when they were 25 or younger, owing largely to the fact that most prominent life transitions--college, marriage, having children--happened relatively early in their lives.

"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. 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?" Kristina Steiner, a doctoral student in psychology at UNH and the study's lead researcher, asked.

The study collected free-flowing life stories from a sample size of a mere 34 members of a retirement community, ages 59 to 92. All the participants were white, and most had a college degree. Steiner’s team found a "reminiscence bump" between ages 17 and 24, when a large portion of the memories were recalled.

Now, this doesn’t sound like rocket science; when a stranger asks for a summary of your life, recounting your wedding and the birth of your first child are obvious, not to mention efficient choices. We’d like to console ourselves with the belief that the nuanced joys of post-twenties life are not so easily summed up in a collection of “firsts.” Plus, nobody can seriously claim that the misery of adolescence and precarity of early adulthood is the peak of our memorable existences, can they? Guys? 

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