Your Earliest Memories May Be False

Henrietta Strickland
July 20, 2018

"We suggest that what a rememberer has in mind when recalling fictional improbably early memories is an episodic-memory-like mental representation consisting of remembered fragments of early experience and some facts or knowledge about their own infancy/childhood", said study first author Dr. Shazia Akhtar, a researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bradford. These first memories are likely false, the researchers said.

This time period is actually part of the "preverbal stage" of human life, when the ability to form memories has not yet developed, Akhtar told Live Science. In other words, the memories had to be based on direct experience and could not be gleaned from photographs or family stories.

As the person continues to re-imagine this fictional first memory, it gets reinforced to the point where it's truth - at least to him - and he'll correct anyone who contradicts him. And because emotional experience older age and the stories of relatives only confirm their truthfulness, then the person convinces himself that what he remembers about it.

Your earliest memory may be a lie, scientists have concluded, after finding almost 40 per cent of people recall events that they could not possible remember.

A new research study finds that for four out of every 10 people, their earliest childhood memory is something that never happened. A further 893 claimed to recollect events that took place when they were one or younger, say the researchers, led by academics from City, University of London.

From these descriptions the researchers then examined the content, language, nature and descriptive detail of respondents' earliest memory descriptions, and from these evaluated the likely reasons why people claim memories from an age that research indicates they can not be formed.

According to Medical Daily, "fragments of early experience (such as a stroller, family relationships and feelings of sadness) may be combined with accumulated knowledge about one's own infancy through conversations or pictures".

Middle-aged and older adults were more likely to report first memories from these younger ages than other survey responders.

Professor Martin Conway, of City, University of London and co-author of the paper, said: "It's not until we're five or six that we form adult-like memories due to the way that the brain develops".

I know mine was on my parents wedding day - I'm being lifted off a white bench outside by someone and I can see my little white sandals on my feet as I look down at them. Over time, the person imagines what it would have looked like which may result in their mental representations becoming a memory.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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