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Health

Think you know when you made your earliest memory? Think again.

Seriously, Science?By Seriously ScienceMarch 21, 2018 3:00 PM
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Image: Flickr/Hartwig HKD

It seems that every time I learn about my memory, the less I trust it. Take this study, for example. These researchers found that adults, like children they investigated in earlier studies, misdate their childhood memories. And they don't misdate them by a small amount, but rather by several years. Interestingly, our memories seem to telescope in one direction, meaning that your earliest childhood memories may very well be from earlier than you think. 

Looking at the past through a telescope: adults postdated their earliest childhood memories.

"Our previous studies have consistently shown a telescoping error in children's dating of earliest childhood memories. Preschool children through adolescents systematically date their earliest memories at older ages, in comparison with the age estimates provided by their parents or by themselves previously. In the current study, we examined the dating of earliest childhood memories in two samples of college adults and collected independent age estimates from their parents. Consistent with our findings with children, adults significantly postdated their earlier memories by approximately 12 months (Study 1) and 6 months (Study 2). The actual age of earliest memories was 2.5 years after adjusted for telescoping errors, 1 year earlier than what is commonly believed at 3.5 years. These findings challenge commonly held theoretical assumptions about childhood amnesia and highlight critical methodological issues in the study of childhood memory."

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