la joie de vivre

From California to Lyon, France: living & studying abroad…and coming back!

Rosy Retrospection

Have you ever heard of the rosy retrospection effect? It’s a psychological phenomenon that explains why we see the past through rose-colored glasses:

and I think applies pretty well to travel and studying abroad!

The theory is this: over time, people will tend to rate events better than they had rated them at the time right after they had occurred (Mitchell, T. and Thompson, L., 1994). The idea is that our specific memories (especially of little annoyances) tend to fade away and we end up remembering the good (…unless there was something particularly traumatizing or extremely stressful. Then that’s a different story!).

I’m pretty sure that’s why people like Disneyland so much. At least I know that’s the case for me!

All of my study abroad friends (and myself) are now all really nostalgic about France, Europe, and being abroad. Bringing up pictures and people has become way more sentimental!

So keep the rosy retrospection effect in mind when doing something nice with someone: it’s why if you have the option, share an experience with a friend – whale watching, picnicking, hiking, traveling, whatever – rather than buying them a gift!


On a related note, researchers have found a link between optimistic self-bias (called the “above average effect”) and a dampened activity of the frontal lobe of the brain (Beer, J. S. and Hughes, B. L., 2009).

It’s very cool because the frontal lobe of your brain is major in decision making and judgements — including social judgments about the self — meaning your brain may be suppressing information from you to make you feel, well, “above average”!


…But you could very well be above average anyways :)


Image credits: disneyland (, cute birdie (, sunglasses & brain:


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This entry was posted on June 11, 2012 by in General, Travel and tagged .
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