Memory & Cognition

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 138–147 | Cite as

Memory for time: How people date events

  • Steve M. J. Janssen
  • Antonio G. Chessa
  • Jaap M. J. Murre


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.

Supplementary material (8 kb)
Supplementary material, approximately 340 KB.


  1. Anderson, J. R., &Bower, G. H. (1972). Recognition and recall processes in free recall.Psychological Review,79, 97–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Auriat, N. (1992). Autobiographical memory and survey methodology: Furthering the bridge between two disciplines. In M. A. Conway, D. C. Rubin, H. Spinnler, & W. A. Wagenaar (Eds.),Theoretical perspectives on autobiographical memory (pp. 295–312). Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  3. Baddeley, A. D., Lewis, V., &Nimmo-Smith, I. (1978). When did you last ...? In M. M. Gruneberg, P. E. Morris, & R. N. Sykes (Eds.),Practical aspects of memory (pp. 78–83). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barclay, C. R., &Wellman, H. M. (1986). Accuracies and inaccuracies in autobiographical memories.Journal of Memory & Language,25, 93–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Betz, A. L., &Skowronski, J. J. (1997). Self-events and other-events: Temporal dating and event memory.Memory & Cognition,25, 701–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bratfisch, O., Ekman, G., Lundberg, U., &Krüger, K. (1971). Subjective temporal distance and emotional involvement.Scandinavian Journal of Psychology,12, 147–160.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, N. R. (1990). Organization of public events in long-term memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,119, 297–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, N. R., Rips, L. J., &Shevell, S. K. (1985). The subjective dates of natural events in long-term memory.Cognitive Psychology,17, 139–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burt, C. D. B. (1992a). Reconstruction of the duration of autobiographical events.Memory & Cognition,20, 124–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burt, C. D. B. (1992b). Retrieval characteristics of autobiographical memories: Event and date information.Applied Cognitive Psychology,6, 389–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burt, C. D. B., &Kemp, S. (1991). Retrospective duration estimation of public events.Memory & Cognition,19, 252–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burt, C. D. B., Kemp, S., &Conway, M. [A.] (2001). What happens if you retest autobiographical memory 10 years on?Memory & Cognition,29, 127–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burt, C. D. B., Kemp, S., &Conway, M. A. (2003). Themes, events, and episodes in autobiographical memory.Memory & Cognition,31, 317–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burt, C. D. B., Kemp, S., Grady, J. M., &Conway, M. [A.] (2000). Ordering autobiographical experiences.Memory,8, 323–332.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Conway, M. A., &Pleydell-Pearce, C. W. (2000). The construction of autobiographical memories in the self-memory system.Psychological Review,107, 261–288.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Crawley, S. E., &Pring, L. (2000). When did Mrs Thatcher resign? The effects of ageing on the dating of public events.Memory,8, 111–121.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Crovitz, H. F., &Schiffman, H. (1974). Frequency of episodic memories as a function of their age.Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society,4, 517–518.Google Scholar
  18. Ferguson, R. P., &Martin, P. (1983). Long-term temporal estimation in humans.Perception & Psychophysics,33, 585–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Friedman, W. J. (1993). Memory for the time of past events.Psychological Bulletin,113, 44–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Friedman, W. J., &Huttenlocher, J. (1997). Memory for the time of “60 Minutes” stories and news events.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,23, 560–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Galton, F. (1879). Psychometric experiments.Brain,2, 149–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gibbons, J. A., &Thompson, C. P. (2001). Using a calendar in event dating.Applied Cognitive Psychology,15, 33–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hinrichs, J. V. (1970). A two-process memory-strength theory for judgment of recency.Psychological Review,77, 223–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Huttenlocher, J., Hedges, L. V., &Bradburn, N. M. (1990). Reports of elapsed time: Bounding and rounding processes in estimation.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,16, 196–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huttenlocher, J., Hedges, L. [V.], &Prohaska, V. (1988). Hierarchical organization in ordered domains: Estimating the dates of events.Psychological Review,95, 471–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Huttenlocher, J., Hedges, L. V., &Prohaska, V. (1992). Memory for day of the week: A 5+2 day cycle.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,121, 313–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Janssen, S. M. J., Chessa, A. G., &Murre, J. M. J. (2003). Modeling the reminiscence bump in autobiographical memory with the memory chain model. In B. Kokinov & W. Hirst (Eds.),Constructive memory (pp. 138–147). Sofia: New Bulgarian University.Google Scholar
  28. Janssen, S. M. J., Chessa, A. G., & Murre, J. M. J. (2004, August).Influence of dating formats on the telescoping effect and the distribution of autobiographical memory. Paper presented at the RC33 Sixth International Conference on Social Science Methodology, Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  29. Janssen, S. M. J., Chessa, A. G., &Murre, J. M. J. (2005). The reminiscence bump in autobiographical memory: Effects of age, gender, education, and culture.Memory,13, 658–668.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Kemp, S. (1988). Dating recent and historical events.Applied Cognitive Psychology,2, 181–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kemp, S. (1994). Bias in dating news and historical events.Acta Psychologica,86, 69–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kemp, S. (1996). Association as a cause of dating bias.Memory,4, 131–142.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Kemp, S. (1999). An associative theory of estimating past dates and past prices.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,6, 41–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Klomps, P. (2001).Retrograde amnesie: Constructie van een vragenlijst [Retrograde amnesia: Construction of a questionnaire]. Unpublished research report. University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  35. Kurbat, M. A., Shevell, S. K., &Rips, L. J. (1998). A year’s memories: The calendar effect in autobiographical recall.Memory & Cognition,26, 532–552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Larsen, S. F., &Conway, M. A. (1997). Reconstructing dates of true and false autobiographical memories.European Journal of Cognitive Psychology,9, 259–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Larsen, S. F., &Thompson, C. P. (1995). Reconstructive memory in the dating of personal and public news events.Memory & Cognition,23, 780–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Larsen, S. F., Thompson, C. P., &Hansen, T. (1995). Time in autobiographical memory. In D. C. Rubin (Ed.),Remembering our past: Studies in autobiographical memory (pp. 129–156). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Lee, P. J., &Brown, N. R. (2004). The role of guessing and boundaries on date estimation biases.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,11, 748–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Lewandowsky, S., &Murdock, B. B., Jr. (1989). Memory for serial order.Psychological Review,96, 25–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Linton, M. (1975). Memory for real-world events. In D. A. Norman & D. E. Rumelhart (Eds.),Explorations in cognition (pp. 376–404). San Francisco: Freeman.Google Scholar
  42. Loftus, E. F., Klinger, M. R., Smith, K. D., &Fiedler, J. (1990). A tale of two questions: Benefits of asking more than one question.Public Opinion Quarterly,54, 330–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Loftus, E. F., &Marburger, W. (1983). Since the eruption of Mt. St. Helens, has anyone beaten you up? Improving the accuracy of retrospective reports with landmark events.Memory & Cognition,11, 114–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Meeter, M., Murre, J. M. J., &Janssen, S. M. J. (2005). Remembering the news: Modeling retention data from a study with 14,000 participants.Memory & Cognition,33, 793–810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Paivio, A., Yuille, J. C., &Madigan, S. A. (1968). Concreteness, imagery, and meaningfulness values for 925 nouns [Monograph].Journal of Experimental Psychology,76^(1, Pt. 2), 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pillemer, D. B., Goldsmith, L. R., Panter, A. T., &White, S. H. (1988). Very long-term memories of the first year in college.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,14, 709–715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Prohaska, V., Brown, N. R., &Belli, R. F. (1998). Forward telescoping: The question matters.Memory,6, 455–465.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Reips, U.-D. (2000). The Web experimenting method: Advantages, disadvantages, and solutions. In M. H. Birnbaum (Ed.),Psychological experiments on the Internet (pp. 89–117). San Diego: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rubin, D. C. (1982). On the retention function for autobiographical memory.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,21, 21–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rubin, D. C., &Baddeley, A. D. (1989). Telescoping is not time compression: A model of the dating of autobiographical events.Memory & Cognition,17, 653–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sehulster, J. R. (1989). Content and temporal structure of autobiographical knowledge: Remembering twenty-five seasons at the Metropolitan Opera.Memory & Cognition,17, 590–606.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Shimojima, Y. (2002). Memory of elapsed time and feeling of time discrepancy.Perceptual & Motor Skills,94, 559–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Skowronski, J. J., &Thompson, C. P. (1990). Reconstructing the dates of personal events: Gender differences in accuracy.Applied Cognitive Psychology,4, 371–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Skowronski, J. J., Walker, W. R., &Betz, A. L. (2003). Ordering our world: An examination of time in autobiographical memory.Memory,11, 247–260.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Thompson, C. P. (1982). Memory for unique personal events: The roommate study.Memory & Cognition,10, 324–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Thompson, C. P. (1985a). Memory for unique personal events: Effects for pleasantness.Motivation & Emotion,9, 277–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Thompson, C. P. (1985b). Memory for unique personal events: Some implications of the self-schema.Human Learning,4, 267–280.Google Scholar
  58. Thompson, C. P., Skowronski, J. J., &Betz, A. L. (1993). The use of partial temporal information in dating personal events.Memory & Cognition,21, 352–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thompson, C. P., Skowronski, J. J., &Lee, D. J. (1988). Telescoping in dating naturally occurring events.Memory & Cognition,16, 461–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wagenaar, W. A. (1986). My memory: A study of autobiographical memory over six years.Cognitive Psychology,18, 225–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. White, R. T. (1982). Memory for personal events.Human Learning,1, 171–183.Google Scholar
  62. Wright, D. B., Gaskell, G. D., &O’Muircheartaigh, C. A. (1997). Temporal estimation of major news events: Re-examining the accessibility principle.Applied Cognitive Psychology,11, 35–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steve M. J. Janssen
    • 1
  • Antonio G. Chessa
    • 1
  • Jaap M. J. Murre
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.University of MaastrichtMaastrichtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations