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Study: Our Most Significant Memories Are Made Before Age 25

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DURHAM, NH (CBS) – First love…college graduation…first job.

Most of us may have made our most important memories by the time we’re 25.

At least that’s what new research out of the University of New Hampshire claims.

A team of psychology researchers from the university set out to collect free-form stories from older Americans. To obtain their data, researchers spoke with 34 members of an active retirement community. All of the participants were between 59 to 92 and they were all white. Seventy-six-percent had earned a college degree or higher.

What the researchers found is a “pronounced reminiscence bump” between ages 17 and 24, when most people “defined chapters of their life story beginning and ending.”

“When people look back over their lives and recount their most important memories, most divide their life stories into chapters defined by important moments that are universal for many: a physical move, attending college, a first job, marriage, military experience, and having children,” says Kristina Steiner, a doctoral student in psychology at UNH and the study’s lead researcher, on the university’s website.

“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?”

Of course, there are obvious problems with the study, like the small number of people studied and the narrow demographic. Still, researchers say many important moments such as marriage and having children occur earlier in life.

“Our life narratives are our identity. By looking at life narratives, researchers can predict levels of well-being and psychological adjustment in adults,” Steiner says.

For more information, click here.

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