Memory & Cognition

, Volume 29, Issue 1, pp 127–136 | Cite as

What happens if you retest autobiographical memory 10 years on?

  • Christopher D. B. Burt
  • Simon Kemp
  • Martin Conway


Burt (1992a, 1992b) reported data on the autobiographical memory of diarists for events that had occurred on average 3.3 years earlier. This paper reports data on 11 of the diarists, who were recontacted after a further 10 years and who agreed to a retest of their memory. Estimates of event date and event duration from the two recall attempts were compared. As predicted, duration estimation was extremely stable and showed no detrimental effects of the additional 10 years of retention interval. Estimation of event date was predicted to show an increase in forward telescoping due to the increased remoteness of the event sample, but, contrary to this prediction, backward telescoping dominated dating errors. A combination of the establishment of a recent boundary and Kemp’s (1999) associative model of dating is proposed as an explanation for these results. It is argued that the nature of dating errors may depend on the time of the event’s occurrence in the life span and the age of the individual dating the events.


  1. Avant, L. L., &Lyman, P. J. (1975). Stimulus familiarity modifies perceived duration in pre-recognition visual processing.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,1, 205–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baddeley, A. D., Lewis, V., &Nimmo-Smith, I. (1978). When did you last….? In M.M. Gruneberg & R. N. Sykes (Eds.),Practical aspects of memory (pp. 77–83). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  3. Barclay, C. R., &Wellman, H. M. (1986). Accuracies and inaccuracies in autobiographical memories.Journal of Memory & Language,25, 93–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Block, R. A. (1978). Remembered duration: Effects of event and sequence complexity.Memory & Cognition,6, 320–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Block, R. A., &Reed, M. A. (1978). Remembered duration: Evidence for a contextual-change hypothesis.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning & Memory,4, 656–665.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bradburn, N. M., Rips, L. J., &Shevell, S. K. (1987). Answering autobiographical questions: The impact of memory and inference on surveys.Science,236, 157–161.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, N. R., Rips, L. J., &Shevell, S. K. (1985). The subjective dates of natural events in very-long-term memory.Cognitive Psychology,17, 139–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, N. R., Shevell, S. K., &Rips, L. J. (1986). Public memories and their personal context. In D. C. Rubin (Ed.),Autobiographical memory (pp. 137–158). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bruce, D., &Van Pelt, M. (1989). Memories of a bicycle tour.Applied Cognitive Psychology,3, 137–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Buffardi, L. (1971). Factors affecting the filled-duration illusion in the auditory, tactual, and visual modalities.Perception & Psychophysics,10, 292–294.Google Scholar
  11. Burnside, W. (1971). Judgment of short time intervals while performing mathematical tasks.Perception & Psychophysics,9, 404–406.Google Scholar
  12. Burt, C. D. B. (1992a). Reconstruction of the duration of autobiographical events.Memory & Cognition,20, 124–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Burt, C. D. B. (1992b). Retrieval characteristics of autobiographical memories: Event and date information.Applied Cognitive Psychology,6, 389–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Burt, C. D. B. (1993). The effect of actual event duration and event memory on the reconstruction of duration information.Applied Cognitive Psychology,7, 63–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Burt, C. D. B. (1999). The effect of categorization of action speed on estimated duration.Memory,7, 345–355.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Burt, C. D. B., &Kemp S. (1991). Retrospective duration estimation of public events.Memory & Cognition,19, 252–262.Google Scholar
  17. Burt, C. D. B., &Kemp, S. (1994). Construction of activity duration and time management potential.Applied Cognitive Psychology,8, 155–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Burt, C. D. B., Kemp, S., & Conway, M. A. (2000).Event attributes that define false event acceptance. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  19. Burt, C. D. B., &Popple, J. S. (1996). Effects of implied action speed on estimation of event duration.Applied Cognitive Psychology,10, 53–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Burt, C. D. B., Watt, S. C., Mitchell, D. A., &Conway, M. A. (1998). Retrieving the sequence of autobiographical event components.Applied Cognitive Psychology,12, 321–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Conway, M. A. (1992). A structural model of autobiographical memory. In M. A. Conway, D. C. Rubin, H. Spinnler, & W. A. Wagenaar (Eds.),Theoretical perspectives on autobiographical memory (pp. 167–194). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  22. Conway, M. A. (1995). Autobiographical knowledge and autobiographical memories. In D. C. Rubin (Ed.),Remembering our past: Studies in autobiographical memory (pp. 67–93) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  23. 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
  24. Douglas, J. W. B., &Blomfield, J. M. (1956). The reliability of longitudinal surveys.Millbank Memorial Fund Quarterly,34, 227–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ekman, G., Frankenhaüser, M., Levander, S., &Mellis, I. (1966). The influence of intensity and duration of electrical stimulation on subjective variables.Scandinavian Journal of Psychology,7, 58–64.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ferguson, R. P., &Martin, P. (1983). Long-term temporal estimation in humans.Perception & Psychophysics,33, 585–592.Google Scholar
  27. Fitzgerald, J. M. (1981). Autobiographical memory reports in adolescence.Canadian Journal of Psychology,35, 69–75.Google Scholar
  28. Fitzgerald, J. M., &Lawrence, R. (1984). Autobiographical memory across the life-span.Journal of Gerontology,39, 692–699.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Fraisse, P. (1984). Perception and estimation of time.Annual Review of Psychology,35, 1–36.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Friedman, W. J. (1993). Memory for the time of past events.Psychological Bulletin,113, 44–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Friedman, W. J. (1996). Distance and location processes in memory for the times of past events. In D. L. Medin (Ed.).The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 35, pp. 1–41). San Diego: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  32. Friedman, W. J., &Kemp, S. (1998). The effects of elapsed time and retrieval on young children’s judgments of the temporal distances of past events.PitCognitive Development,13, 335–367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Friedman, W. J., &Wilkins, A. J. (1985). Scale effects in memory for the time of events.Memory & Cognition,13, 168–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Holding, D. H., Noonan, T. K., Pfau, H. D., &Holding, C. S. (1986). Date attribution, age and the distribution of life-time memories.Journal of Gerontology,41, 481–485.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Huttenlocher, J., Hedges, L., &Bradburn, N. (1990). Reports of elapsed time: Bounding and rounding processes in estimation.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,16, 196–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Huttenlocher, J., Hedges, L., &Prohaska, V. (1988). Hierarchical organization in ordered domains: Estimating the dates of events.Psychological Review,95, 471–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kemp, S. (1987). Gestalt grouping effects in locating past events on time-lines.Acta Psychologica,64, 139–149.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kemp, S. (1988). Dating recent and historical events.Applied Cognitive Psychology,2, 181–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Kemp, S. (1994). Bias in dating news and historical events.Acta Psychologica,86, 69–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kemp, S. (1996). Association as a cause of dating bias.Memory,4, 131–143.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Kemp, S. (1999). An associative theory of estimating past dates and past prices.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,6, 41–56.Google Scholar
  42. Kemp, S., &Burt, C. D. B. (1998). The force of events: Cross-modality matching the recency of news events.Memory,6, 297–306.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Kowal, K. H. (1987). Apparent duration and numerosity as a function of melodic familiarity.Perception & Psychophysics,42, 122–131.Google Scholar
  44. 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
  45. 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
  46. Linton, M. (1978). Real world memory after six years: An in vivo study of very long term memory. In M. M. Gruneberg, P. E. Morris, & R. N. Sykes (Eds.),Practical aspects of memory (pp. 69–76). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  47. Loftus, E. F., &Fathi, D. C. (1985). Retrieving multiple autobiographical memories.Social Cognition,3, 280–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. McConchie, R. D., &Rutschmann, J. (1971). Human time estimation: On differences between methods.Perceptual & Motor Skills,32, 319–336.Google Scholar
  49. McCormack, P. (1979). Autobiographical memory in the aged.Canadian Journal of Psychology,33, 118–124.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Means, B., &Loftus, E. F. (1991). When personal history repeats itself: Decomposing memories for recurring events.Applied Cognitive Psychology,5, 297–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Mednick, S. A., &Shaffer, J. B. P. (1963). Mothers’ retrospective reports in child-rearing research.American Journal of Orthopsychiatry,33, 457–461.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Neter, J., &Waksberg, J. (1964). A study of response errors in expenditure data from household interviews.Journal of the American Statistical Association,59, 18–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Ornstein, R. E. (1969).On the experience of time. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  54. Penick, B. K. E., &Owens, M. E. B. (Eds.) (1976).Surveying crime. Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences.Google Scholar
  55. Perlmutter, M., Metzger, R., Miller, K., &Nezworski, T. (1980). Memory of historical events.Experimental Aging Research,6, 47–60.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 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
  57. Pillemer, D. B., Rhinehart, E. D., &White, S. H. (1986). Memories of life transitions: The first year in college.Human Learning: Journal of Practical Research & Applications,5, 109–123.Google Scholar
  58. Poynter, W. D., &Homa, D. (1983). Duration judgment and the experience of change.Perception & Psychophysics,33, 548–560.Google Scholar
  59. Pyles, M. K., Stolz, H. R., &MacFarlane, J. W. (1935). The accuracy of mothers’ reports on birth and developmental data.Child Development,6, 165–176.Google Scholar
  60. Rachlin, H. C. (1966). Scaling subjective velocity distance and duration.Perception & Psychophysics,1, 77–82.Google Scholar
  61. Robinson, J. A. (1976). Sampling autobiographical memory.Cognitive Psychology,8, 578–595.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Robinson, J. A. (1986). Autobiographical memory: A historical prologue. In D. C. Rubin (Ed.),Autobiographical memory (pp. 159–188). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  63. 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.Google Scholar
  64. Schiffman, H. R., &Bobko, D. J. (1974). Effects of stimulus complexity on the perception of brief temporal intervals.Journal of Experimental Psychology,103, 156–159.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Schiffman, H. R., &Bobko, D. J. (1977). The role of number and familiarity of stimuli in the perception of brief temporal intervals.American Journal of Psychology,90, 85–93.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Schneider, A. L., Griffith, W. R., Sumi, D. H., &Burcart, J. M. (1978).Portland forward records check of crime victims. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Justice.Google Scholar
  67. Schnieder, A. L., &Sumi, D. (1981). Patterns of forgetting and telescoping: An analysis of LEAA survey victimization data.Criminology,19, 400–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Shum, M. S. (1998). The role of temporal landmarks in autobiographical memory processes.Psychological Bulletin,124, 423–442.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sudman, S., &Bradburn, N. M. (1973). Effects of time and memory factors on response in surveys.Journal of the American Statistical Association,68, 805–815.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sudman, S., &Bradburn, N. M. (1974).Response effects in surveys. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  71. Sudman, S., &Bradburn, N. M. (1982).Asking questions. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  72. Thomas, E. A., &Brown, I. (1974). Time estimated and the filled-duration illusion.Perception & Psychophysics,16, 449–458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Thompson, C. P. (1982). Memory for unique personal events: The roommate study.Memory & Cognition,10, 324–332.Google Scholar
  74. Thompson, C. P. (1985a). Memory for unique personal events: Effects of pleasantness.Motivation & Emotion,9, 277–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Thompson, C. P. (1985b). Memory for unique personal events: Some implications of the self-schema.Human Learning: Journal of Practical Research & Applications,4, 267–280.Google Scholar
  76. 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.Google Scholar
  77. Thompson, C. P., Skowronski, J. J., Larsen, S. F., &Betz, A. L. (1996).Autobiographical memory: Remembering what and remembering when. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  78. Thompson, C. P., Showronski, J. J., &Lee, D. J. (1988). Telescoping in dating naturally occurring events.Memory & Cognition,16, 461–468.Google Scholar
  79. Wagenaar, W. A. (1986). My memory: A study of autobiographical memory over 6 years.Cognitive Psychology,18, 225–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. White, R. T. (1982). Memory for personal events.Human Learning,1, 177–183.Google Scholar
  81. Wright, D. B. (1998). Modeling clustered data in autobiographical memory research: The multilevel approach.Applied Cognitive Psychology,12, 339–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. 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. 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher D. B. Burt
    • 1
  • Simon Kemp
    • 1
  • Martin Conway
    • 2
  1. 1.University of CanterburyChristchurch
  2. 2.University of BristolBristolEngland

Personalised recommendations