In a previous installment of this series, “Declinism or Why ‘The Good Old Days’ Seem So Good When You’re Older,” I discussed a phenomenon called “the reminiscence bump.”
What is the reminiscence bump? Simply stated, it’s a tendency for middle-aged and elderly individuals to better remember their personal memories from the ages of 10 to 30 than any other period of life.
This tendency leads to a cognitive bias called “declinism,” in which people remember the past as better than it was and simultaneously expect the future to be worse than it will actually be. It gets its name from a feeling that the culture you’re living in is “in decline.”
It Turns Out That Reminiscence Bump Is Cross Cultural
At any given time, regardless of when it is or what country you’re living in, people are likely to feel like that country is in decline relative to the past. That’s because reminiscence bump is cross cultural.
Yes, really. There’s a growing body of empirical research showing that this seems to not be a culture-locked phenomenon but instead seemingly related to how autobiographical memory and the process of building a cultural life script work.
In fact, a recent study found this phenomenon to affect participants from Mexico, Greenland, China, and Denmark. In all of the cultures studied, young adults reported lower levels of life satisfaction and higher levels of depression and PTSD symptoms when contrasted with their middle-aged counterparts.
This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.