Trips down memory lane: Recall direction affects the subjective distance of past events

Kent C.H. Lam, Roger Buehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The subjective temporal distance of a past eventĝ€"how close or far away it feelsĝ€"is influenced by numerous factors apart from actual time. The current studies extend research on subjective distance by exploring the experience of remembering autobiographical events as part of a stream of related events. The temporal direction in which events are recalled was proposed as a key determinant of subjective distance. Five experiments supported the hypothesis that people feel closer to a target event when they recall a stream of related events in a backward direction (i.e., a reverse-chronological order ending with the target event) rather than a forward direction (i.e., a chronological order beginning with the target event). The effect of recall direction was mediated by people's perceptions of change in their lives. Backward recall created the impression that relatively little had changed since the target event, which in turn made the event feel closer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-242
Number of pages13
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Memory qualities
  • Recall direction
  • Self-assessment
  • Subjective experience
  • Subjective temporal distance
  • Subjective time


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