Memory & Cognition

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 653-661

First online:

Telescoping is not time compression: A model

  • David C. RubinAffiliated withPsychology Depamnent, Duke University
  • , Alan D. BaddeleyAffiliated withMRC Applied Psychology Unit


A model of telescoping is proposed that assumes no systematic errors in dating. Rather, the overestimation of recent occurrences of events is based on the combination of three factors: (1) Retention is greater for recent events; (2) errors in dating, though unbiased, increase linearly with the time since the dated event; and (3) intrusions often occur from events outside the period being asked about, but such intrusions do not come from events that have not yet occurred. In Experiment 1, we found that recall for colloquia fell markedly over a 2-year interval, the magnitude of errors in psychologists- dating of the colloquia increased at a rate of .4 days per day of delay, and the direction of the dating error was toward the middle of the interval. In Experiment 2, the model used the retention function and dating errors from the first study to predict the distribution of the actual dates of colloquia recalled as being within a 5-month period. In Experiment 3, the findings of the first study were replicated with colloquia given by, instead of for, the subjects.