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

Matthew A. Kurbat, Steven K. Shevell, Lance J. Rips*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


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 this calendar 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)532-552
Number of pages21
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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