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A year’s memories: The calendar effect in autobiographical recall

Abstract

When asked to recall autobiographical events from the past year, students tend to recall more incidents from the beginning and the end of school terms than from other periods. We investigated thiscalendar effect in Experiment 1 by comparing free recall at schools with different academic calendars. The event distributions tracked the individual calendars, helping to eliminate the possibility that the calendar effect is due to seasonal, nonschool factors, such as holidays. In Experiments 2–4, we checked explanations based on the ideas that events at term boundaries are more important or distinctive than others, that events are incorrectly dated too near the boundaries, and that boundaries serve as implicit cues for recall. These experiments revealed no evidence that importance or errors in dating could explain the effect. Manipulating cues, however, did change the size of the effect, implicating retrieval from very long-term memory as the effect’s source. We suggest that when people have to search episodic memory, they consider their own calendar rhythms (such as a student’s academic schedule) and let the temporal structure of their personal context guide their search.

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Correspondence to Lance J. Rips.

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NSF Grant SES-8411976 supported the research that we report in this paper.

—Accepted by previous editor, Geoffrey R. Loftus

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Kurbat, M.A., Shevell, S.K. & Rips, L.J. A year’s memories: The calendar effect in autobiographical recall. Mem Cogn 26, 532–552 (1998). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03201161

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03201161

Keywords

  • Term Boundary
  • Importance Rating
  • School Group
  • True Distance
  • Calendar Effect