, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 138-147

Memory for time: How people date events

Abstract

The effect of different formats on the accuracy of dating news and the distribution of personal events was examined in four conditions. In the first, participants had to date events in the absolute time format (e.g., “July 2004”), and in the second, they had to date events in the relative time format (e.g., “3 weeks ago”). In the other conditions, they were asked to choose between the two formats. We found a small backward telescoping effect for recent news events and a large forward telescoping effect for remote events. Events dated in the absolute time format were more accurate than those dated in the relative time format. Furthermore, participants preferred to date news events with the relative time format and personal events with the absolute time format, as well as preferring to date remote events in the relative time format and recent events in the absolute time format.

This research was supported by a grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research to J.M.J.M.