"Time of Your Life," by Martin Conway in his Autobiographical Memory.
Summary by Alex Bersanni
In the next chapter of the Martin Conway reading assigned (called "Time of Your Life"), Conway takes a look at various studies which deal with how many memories from various portions of their lives individuals are able to recall, including studies in which the memories are verified by diary entries. Some of these studies involve prompting individuals with a series of words and asking them to come up with one corresponding memory as well as it's corresponding date per word, or giving them one cue word and asking them to generate 10-15 memories with corresponding dates based upon it.
These actions were observed in many different age groups and for many different periods of one's life. Not surprisingly, almost all of the studies found that individuals could remember recent events better than those which had happened a long time ago. This phenomenon was displayed in many ways including a six-year self-study done by Linton who wrote down accounts of events daily (5,500 in all!) and tested herself on them later. After 18 months her retention rate began to decline.
In addition, interesting events had a better recall rate for patients tested. For example, those asked to recall adolescent birthdays could remember more vividly with better date accuracy than those asked to recall events from during a school year. These routine mundane details seem more susceptible to being forgotten.
Also, memory and date attachment exercises had better results for more recent events. In other words, after a certain amount of time individuals had more trouble pairing events with the dates on which they took place.
In the chapter after that, "Vivid Memories", Conway introduces the idea of "flashbulb memories" which focus on an individual remembering what he or she was doing when they learned about a certain event. "What were you doing when you heard about JFK's assassination?" that kind of thing. Colegrove (1899) found that 127 out of 179 people could remember exact details of their lives when they learned of Lincoln's death. This was especially astonishing because these questions were asked 33 years after the event!
This type of memory has been shown to be more detailed than other types of memories because of their closely related emotions. People remember the things that surprised