I remember it like it was yesterday: Age-related changes in the subjective experience of remembering


It has been frequently described that older adults subjectively report the vividness of their memories as being as high, or even higher, than young adults, despite poorer objective memory performance. Here, we review studies that examined age-related differences in the subjective experience of memory vividness. Together, studies using different types of approaches converge to suggest that older adults assign vividness ratings that are as high or higher than young adults but rely on retrieved memory details to a lesser extent to judge vividness. We discuss potential mechanisms underlying these observations. Inflation of memory vividness with regard to the richness of memory content may stem from age-differences in vividness criterion or scale interpretation and psycho-social factors. The reduced reliance on episodic memory details in the older age-group may stem from their reduced ability to recollect precise details from past events and/or age-related differences in how they monitor these details to make their vividness ratings. We highlight that a desirable avenue for future research would be to investigate how subjective vividness ratings follow the richness of the corresponding mental representations in other cognitive operations than episodic memory and in other populations than healthy older adults. We further recommend that future studies explore the links between memory vividness and other subjective memory scales (e.g., ratings of details or memory confidence) in healthy aging, as it could be used as a window to better characterize the cognitive processes that underpin the subjective assessment of the quality of recollected past events.