Making the future memorable: The phenomenology of remembered future events

Memory. 2015;23(8):1255-63. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2014.972960. Epub 2014 Oct 31.


Although our ability to remember future simulations conveys an adaptive advantage, enabling us to better prepare for upcoming events, the factors influencing the memorability of future simulations are not clear. In this study, participants generated future simulations that combined specific people, places and objects from memory, and for each trial, made a series of phenomenological ratings about the event components and the simulation as a whole. Memory for simulations was later assessed using a cued-recall test. We used multilevel modelling to determine whether the phenomenological qualities of event components (familiarity, emotionality and significance) and simulations (detail, plausibility) were predictive of whether the simulation was successfully encoded and later accessible. Our results demonstrate that person familiarity, detail and plausibility were significant predictors of whether a given future simulation was encoded into memory and later accessible. These findings suggest that scaffolding future simulations with pre-existing episodic memories is the path to a memorable future.

Keywords: Episodic memory; Episodic simulation; Familiarity; Future thinking; Hierarchical linear modelling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Forecasting*
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Mental Recall
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Young Adult