Why Are Some Memories More Vivid Than Others?

Why Are Some Memories More Vivid Than Others?

Think about your most vivid memories. Chances are—especially if you're middle-aged or older—at least some of those memories took place around a time you moved. Scientists already knew that the majority of your memories are from the time period between your teenage years to adulthood in a phenomenon known as the "reminiscence bump," but a 2016 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology now adds a "relocation bump" to the mix. In the study, researchers asked older adults to recall their most memorable experiences between the ages of 40 and 60, then asked them how many times they moved during those years. They found that 26% of the memorable events the participants recalled happened around the time of their moves, which was double what you'd expect from random chance. This is just one of the ways your brain adds mental "bookmarks" to your internal autobiography. Explore below to learn more of them.

How Do Memories Work?

A primer on how our brains make memories.

Remembering Intense Or Traumatic Events

So-called "flashbulb" memories are more vivid than other memories, but that doesn't mean they're more true.

Why Are Memories Linked To Smells More Vivid?

It has to do with the peculiar way your brain is wired.


Key Facts In This Video

  • 1

    Memories linked to smells are often stronger and more vivid than those linked to sights or sounds. (0:43)

  • 2

    Other senses are routed through the thalamus, which sends them to the necessary processing centers. Smells go directly to an area linked to the memory centers of your brain. (1:19)

  • 3

    A 2013 study found that smells are more strongly connected to emotional processing centers than verbal cues are. (1:54)

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