114 Memory Lane

Based on research by Gino, F., & Desai, S. D.. Written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Did you know that thinking of a good memory from your childhood might lead you to be more generous and kind?

Drs. Francesca Gino and Sreedhari Desai from Harvard University evaluated the effect of childhood memories on positive social behavior. They believed that good childhood memories would bring out an inner state of feeling morally clean and innocent, and would therefore lead to an increase in prosocial behaviors such as being kind to others, helping, co-operating, sharing, donating, or volunteering.  Undergraduate students from southeastern universities participated in the study.   Participants who were told to remember a childhood memory were more likely to help the experimenter with another task, and gave more money when asked to donate to a good cause.  Prompting these positive memories also led to negative attitudes of others’ morally questionable behavior.

While we experience emotions such as sympathy and empathy in response to others, the moral purity brought on by childhood memories is described as encouraging selfless behaviors. This study offers a potential solution to our selfishness, and a simple way to promote helping and other altruistic behaviors.

What memories do you look back to with fondness?  Go ahead and take a trip down memory lane!


Gino, F., & Desai, S. D. (2012). Memory lane and morality: How childhood memories promote prosocial behavior. Journal of personality and social psychology, 102(4), 743

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