Think back to your favorite song, movie, or athlete. Have it in mind? For most people, their strongest memories on those, and other subjects that rely on participants’ memory of the past, will traced back to one particular decade – their second one, and their years as a teenager.
Psychologist Steve Janssen, from Australia’s Flinders University has studied this phenomenon quite a bit. People will certainly remember major life events of things that happened in more recent years, he says. Major milestones, like graduations, weddings, births, or deaths will likely not be forgotten. But for most people, the memories implanted during their teenaged years have a certain degree of significance that cannot be matched by any other.
Dr. Janssen has coined this phenomenon the "reminiscence bump," in an effort to understand further how memory works.
A huge soccer fan, Janssen and two colleagues polled Dutch soccer fans with one simple question: “Who are the five best soccer players of all time?”
The results confirmed the existence of the reminiscence bump. For all the respondents, their nominations favored players that had come into prominence between the time that they were 10 and 20. The reason for this, Janssen says, is that people remember most vividly the games from that decade during their youth.
There were outliers, of course. Striker Johan Cruyuff, voted in 1999 to be the European Player of the Century by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, was nominated by survey participants of all ages, including those who had not been born during his soccer reign. But those who were 50 or 60, who had come of age during Cruyuff’s peak in 1974 supported him the most enthusiastically and provided him with the most nominations.
Janssen says that the reason for this phenomenon is that cognitive faculties are at their height during that decade. It is so easy for the brain to take in new information, he said. Scientists believe that the memory stores information better during this decade, which is why it is easier to retrieve it later.
Dr. Janssen's study results on the best football players were published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.