Let us say that a person $x$ can faithfully recount day $d$ if $x$ can mention at least $2$ things she did in the first half of the day, and the same for the second half of the day.

I suppose we could agree that an average, healthy person can faithfully recount the events of the current day at the end of the day - and probably the same is true for the previous day.

Is there any consensus of how many days back an average, healthy person should be able to faithfully recount the events?


1 Answer 1


The thing recalled in your definition of faithfully recount seems to need sharpening since any successful pattern completion of such a thing (episodic event) is conditioned on its distinct pattern separation during its initial encoding and storage. In psychology the right term should be engram (aka memory trace). Simply mentioning mundane things or events such as brushing teeth and washing face won't be useful for your purpose to be qualified as faithful recount of the whole day $d$.

Another difficulty here is usually our hippocampus is adequate to very quickly store today or yesterday's most episodes which are ready anytime to be further retrieved for working memory use, but to form long term memory, system consolidation needs weeks, months, even years of retrieval and rehearsal as confirmed by this online source which cites several references as sampled below. Thus it's not uncommon that $x$ cannot recall 2 things of $d$ of this past week but can recall clearly for a day $d'$ of last year! Thus it's hard to apply the definition formulated in OP in practical experiments.

Finally for your purpose under further narrower assumptions such as ignore long term memory effect and for an average healthy person there're at least 2 distinct episodic events occur every day (time is not wasted in vein), then according to above reference such person may on average faithfully recount up to several weeks and its variance could be as large as several months even years as reflected by the hyperthymestic syndrome.


Dudai, Y. (2004). "The Neurobiology of Consolidations, Or, How Stable is the Engram?". Annual Review of Psychology. 55: 51–86. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.55.090902.142050. PMID 14744210.

  • $\begingroup$ I would be grateful for suggestions of sharpenings of the definition of faithful recounting. Maybe we could say we can faithfully recount a day $d$ if there is at least one "special" thing (events, perceptions, thoughts, utterings...) that doesn't occur daily which we can remember for the morning, and also for the afternoon. In that case, my guess as a layman would be, the average person can faithfully recount about $3-4$ days back (and of course, some special days like wedding, graduation, birth of child way in the past) $\endgroup$ Nov 30, 2022 at 9:09
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect for average person the speculation that there're two "special" episodic things (even one) always consecutive in the last 3-4 days may be too optimistic (not because memory problem, but due to lack of such opportunities. Indeed most days seem to be wasted in vein if everyday is just like another day), not to mention those "special" non-episodic semantic or muscle memories which very likely to be able to become long term. $\endgroup$ Dec 1, 2022 at 2:58

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