Find Your Memory Bump

This stroll down memory lane should take about 10 minutes. All you need is a piece of paper and a pencil or pen.

Step 1.
Write the 15 words listed below on a blank sheet of paper, leaving a few lines between each one:

1. HAND 5. ANIMAL 9. BIG 13. FISH
2. WATER 6. PLANT 10. LETTER 14. POWER
3. LIGHT 7. STORY 11. WALK 15. FLY
4. HOUSE 8. PICTURE 12. MUSIC  

Step 2.
Use each of the 15 words to bring back a specific memory from your past—the first one you think of when you see the word. The memory that you think of may come from any period of your life including childhood, young adulthood, adulthood, or more recent years. Jot down a few details about each one.

Step 3.
Once you've come up with a memory for each of the 15 words, go back and try to remember how old you were at the time of the memory. Be as specific as you can!

Step 4.
Tally up the number of memories that came from each of the decades in your life.

Decade of Life Number of memories
Ages 0-10  
Ages 11-20  
Ages 21-30  
Ages 31-40  
Ages 41-50  
Ages 51-60  
Ages 61-70  
Ages 71-80  
Ages 81-90  
Ages 91-100  
Ages 100+  

Step 5.
From which decade or decades of your life did most of the memories come?

Explanation: If you are at least 40 years old, it's likely that the largest number of memories you generated came from your teens (ages 11-20) and twenties (ages 21-30). Unlike many other aspects of memory performance, which decline with age, this "bump" of memories tends to remain stable into the ninth and tenth decades of life. Scientists don't agree about why people can remember these years so well. What do you think explains it?