, Volume 38, Issue 8, pp 1122-1136

Do people remember the temporal proximity of unrelated events?

Abstract

In the present study, we tested the ability to remember the temporal proximity of two unrelated events that had happened within 7 days of one another. In three experiments, 1,909 participants judged whether pairs of news events, ranging in age from 1 month to about 6 years, had occurred within a week of each other and, if not, how far apart they had occurred. Some event pairs were related, and others were unrelated. For unrelated event pairs, same-week and separation judgments were very poor. Accuracy was much greater for both kinds of judgments when the events were related. Participants often guessed the separation of unrelated event pairs, whereas they frequently deduced the separation or remembered the proximity of related event pairs. For both types of pairs, the participants reported using the strength of the memories or the general period in which the events had occurred.

The present study was supported by a Rubicon Grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) to S.M.J.J.