By Tom Z
12:41 PM EST, January 23, 2013
Slate has an interesting new article about 20-somethings. Turns out we remember more from our twenties than from any other decade of our lives. Why? The answer remains a mystery to scientists. Yet clearly the twenties are the pinnacle of our lives, at least when it comes to memories. Older folks tend to look back at their twenties with nostalgia, while younger kids look forward to the freedom that comes with being that age. If our lives were a movie, our twenties would be the climactic scene. Like the “Rosebud” revelation from Citizen Kane, or when Bruce Willis walked across the broken glass in Die Hard. From Slate:
“You’re going to remember your trip hiking across Peru,” [author Josh] Foer continued, “more than the year you spent sitting in your office doing the same job you’d been doing for the past five years.”
Yet the cognitive account of the reminiscence bump leaves many questions unanswered. It doesn’t explain why only a small portion of the memories that constitute the bump relate to novel experiences. Nor can a hypothesis grounded in mnemonic processes say much about the results of a 2010 study by Annette Bohn and Dorthe Berntsen, who created a form of reminiscence bump in schoolchildren without asking them to remember a thing. They asked a large group of students, aged 10 to 14, to write their life stories. Most of the future events the kids dreamed up clustered around young adulthood. If the reminiscence bump were merely an offshoot of how our brains store memories, the researchers argued, the children wouldn’t have also privileged their 20s when projecting ahead.
There are two prevailing schools of thought as to why our twenties are more memorable than other decades. Some believe it’s a product of brain development and the way that youthful hormones trigger specific synapses in the frontal cortex. Others think it’s because of alcohol. I’m in the latter group.
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