Life-span retrieval of public events: Reminiscence bump for high-impact events, recency for others

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Tekcan A. I., Boduroglu A., Mutlutürk A., Aktan Erciyes A.

Memory and Cognition, vol.45, no.7, pp.1095-1112, 2017 (SSCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 45 Issue: 7
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Doi Number: 10.3758/s13421-017-0724-1
  • Journal Name: Memory and Cognition
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.1095-1112
  • Keywords: Reminiscence bump, Life-span retrieval, Autobiographical memory, Collective memory, Public events
  • Istanbul Medipol University Affiliated: No


Although substantial evidence exists showing a reliable reminiscence bump for personal events, data regarding retrieval distributions for public events have been equivocal. The primary aim of the present study was to address life-span retrieval distributions of different types of public events in comparison to personal events, and to test whether the existing accounts of the bump can explain the distribution of public events. We asked a large national sample to report the most important, happiest, and saddest personal events and the most important, happiest, saddest, most proud, most fearful, and most shameful public events. We found a robust bump corresponding to the third decade of life for the happiest and the most important positive but not for the saddest and most important negative personal events. For the most important public events, a bump emerged only for the two most frequently mentioned events. Distributions of public events cued with emotions were marked by recency. These results point to potential differences in retrieval of important personal and public events. While the life-script framework well accounts for the findings regarding important personal events, a chronologically retroactive search seem to guide retrieval of public events. Reminiscence bump observed for the two public events suggest that age-at-event affects recall of public events to the degree that the events are high-impact ones that dominate nation’s collective memory. Results provide further evidence that the bump is not unitary and points to importance of event type and memory elicitation method with regard to competing explanations of the phenomenon.