Reminiscence is the act of recollecting past experiences or events. An example of the typical use of the reminiscence is when a person shares his personal stories with others or allows other people to live vicariously through stories of family, friends, and acquaintances while gaining an authentic meaningful relationship with a person. An example of reminiscence may be grandparents remembering past events with friends or their grandchildren, sharing their individual experience of what the past was like.
In psychology, and more specifically cognitive psychology, the word reminiscence is used in a different way than the common conversational use. The study of reminiscence has a long history, which is shortly described in Eysenck and Frith (1977, chapter 1):
Reminiscence is a technical term, coined by Ballard in 1913, denoting improvement in the performance of a partially learned act that occurs while the subject is resting, that is, not performing the act in question. (Eysenck and Frith, 1977, page 3).
The reality of reminiscence was first experimentally demonstrated by Oehrn (1896). In experiments on reminiscence the same task is always administered twice or more. One is mainly interested in the effect of the rest periods between the tasks. Learning might not be apparent within a task but it may be across tasks.
Reminiscing also contributes towards consolidation of memory, acting as a form of review. By returning to the memory and recalling it, reminiscence functions as spaced practice (see Spacing effect). Moreover, reminiscence with someone else can recalibrate one's memory by adjusting how one perceived the given experience, much like being tested.
People have a stronger recollection of memories from particular parts of their lives. The reminiscence bump is a cognitive psychological term that describes how people are more likely to recall memories from their late teens and young adult years.