Strategy There's a reason time seems to speed up as you age — but it's possible to slow it down

  • Published:

It's the phenomenon that helps explain why our younger years seem so much more memorable than life after 30.

null play

null

(Jason McCawley/Getty Images for The ATC)
24/7 Live - Subscribe to the Pulse Newsletter!

  • The most memorable events of our lives happen between the ages of 15 and 30.
  • Psychologists call that the "reminiscence bump," and it helps explain why our younger years are so much more memorable than life after 30.
  • Fresh experiences actually stretch our perception of time.


Ask an older person to recall their most vivid memories, and there's a good chance that many of them will come from the same time period — between the ages of 15 and 30.

That's the time period when six of the 10 most important events in a person's life typically happen, according to a 2004 study: starting school, going to college, getting their first job, falling in love, getting married, and having children.

Psychologists call this phenomenon the "reminiscence bump," and it helps explain why our earlier years seem so much more memorable than life after 30.

"The key to the reminiscence bump is novelty," Claudia Hammond wrote in her book "Time Warped."

"The reason we remember our youth so well is that it is a … time for firsts — first sexual relationships, first jobs, first travel without parents, first experience of living away from home, the first time we get much real choice over the way we spend our days."

This series of novel events stretches our perception of time, and when the novelty runs out, our lives seem to accelerate, according to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of "The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact."

But although it can be a "somewhat depressing realization" that most of your best memories are behind you, as the authors wrote, it's important to put that feeling into context.

"It would be very easy to create a second reminiscence bump late in life. Just divorce your spouse, quit your job, move to New Zealand, and become a shepherd," the authors wrote. "Plenty of novelty there, and you're certain to write a rush of memories. But let's not confuse memorability with wisdom."

In other words, you should punctuate your adult life with fresh experiences without going overboard. As the authors wrote, the old saying is "variety is the spice of life," not "variety is the entrée of life."

"Nobody dines on pepper and oregano," they wrote. "A little novelty can go a long way."