Six hundred and nineteen people (aged 16 to 80) took part in the study online, conducted in Dutch and hosted on the website of the University of Amsterdam. Participants were presented with the names of 190 all-time leading football players and asked to name their judgment of the five best players of all time. They could either select from the list or choose their own.
The researchers calculated the mid-career point of the 172 players named by the participants and compared this against the participants’ age at that time. Participants overwhelming tended to name players whose career mid-point coincided with participants’ teens and early twenties. The modal age (i.e. the most common) of the participants at their chosen players’ mid-career was 17 years.
The findings provide further evidence of a “reminiscence bump” — a term psychologists use to describe peoples’ tendency to refer back to their youth when asked about memorable events or favorite music, books or films. “Several theories have been put forward to explain the reminiscence bump, including that our memories are more efficient in our teens and twenties,” explains the BPS Digest. “Others think it’s because more novel things happen to us at that time of life, such as our first kiss or first job, causing them to get lodged in memory.”