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Salience of emotional autobiographical memories may have temporal patterns associated with valence. Recall of negative emotional memories is often important in survival and well-being. Based on the possible survival value of negative memories, we posited that when given an open-ended request to recall either a sad or a happy memory, people are more likely to recall an older sad memory than a happy one.We asked 20 healthy participants, aged 18–63 years, to freely recall happy and sad emotional memories and estimate the length of time that had passed since the recalled event had occurred. We analyzed the age of each memory based on valence.Sixteen of 20 participants volunteered a more remote sad than happy memory (P<0.05). Older participants’ sad memories were more remote (P<0.05), but the ratio of happy to sad memories was not affected by age.Self-selected free retrieval of autobiographical happy and sad emotional memories reveals a time bias. Although the reason for this temporal dichotomy is unknown, it may be that engaging systems involved in defense and survival alters the encoding and/or retrieval characteristics of the memory that modify salience.