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Metaphysics & Psychology

Your earliest memory may be fake, study claims

July 18, 2018 | Comment icon 28 comments



How far back can you remember ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 Paul Sapiano
Scientists maintain that our earliest memories could not have happened the way we remember them.
The study, which involved asking 6,000 volunteers to describe their earliest recollections, found that up to 40 percent were able to remember something that had happened to them before the age of two.

15 percent of those surveyed even had memories of things that had happened earlier than that.

But is everything as it seems ? Most scientific research conducted in recent years has indicated that our brains simply do not have the capacity to process and encode major life experiences in to long-term memories until we are around three-and-a-half years old.

If that's true, how is it that so many people can remember things from before that age ?
The answer, scientists argue, is that they can't - the memories are 'fake' in so much as they are creations of our subconscious designed to build up a more coherent narrative of our lives.

Such memories may borrow from other sources, such as photographs and things our parents or relatives have said about our childhood, to build up a mental picture of our earliest experiences.

"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 and psychologist Shazia Akhtar of the University of Bradford.

"Additionally, further details may be non-consciously inferred or added, e.g. that one was wearing nappy when standing in the cot. Such episodic-memory-like mental representations come, over time, to be recollectively experienced when they come to mind and so for the individual they quite simply are 'memories' which particularly point to infancy."

Source: Gizmodo | Comments (28)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #19 Posted by ChrLzs 4 years ago
The problem with this 'confirmed by family / friends' business is that: - the rememberer is likely forgetting it was AFTER the family / friends described the incident to them at some earlier point, that they developed/amended the memory.  Hardly surprising then, that it might be correct at a later point. - over time, we all have many discussions about early life incidents, and you will be corrected (or politely/empathetically agreed with - "Yes, sweetie, that's exactly how it happened!"...), and thus your mind will 'correct' your memories as required.    Anyways, some folks clearly think it an... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by XenoFish 4 years ago
https://www.adam-mila.com/brain-development-children-0-6-years/   Memory Development While childhood amnesia makes it impossible to recall most of our autobiographical memories from before we were six, this doesn’t mean that the memories we make before this point are unimportant. Children are still able to form stable memories and they shape the way they interact with and learn about the world. Remembering things is also an important skill that takes time, development, and practice.
Comment icon #21 Posted by L.A.T.1961 4 years ago
Well if you are correct about the fallible and generally untrustworthy human mind perhaps not as much as you think.  ;-) 
Comment icon #22 Posted by ChrLzs 4 years ago
That's why science: - has a peer review process and will generally only work upon properly documented/verified observations - is always open to new and better theories.. - before inventing new theories, widely scans about for possible existing explanations
Comment icon #23 Posted by Sherapy 4 years ago
Indeed X, any claims of memories prior to this are false memories --basically.   
Comment icon #24 Posted by Baldylocks 4 years ago
No offense, but I remember a memory from when I was in a pram like it was yesterday. I was with my mom and dad and we went to see "the lights", its an event where pictures was made of lights etc. On this occasion there was a big display on a wall which was a face of a ape or gorilla. I just woke up and it scared me. I told my parents many years later, they agreed that it happened. 
Comment icon #25 Posted by ChrLzs 4 years ago
No offence .. but you have lovely supportive and empathetic parents, and I'd like to hear all conversations you had with them before you told them about this - I'll bet they told you earlier, or maybe there's a picture somewhere... And of course it will be clear - your mind is in charge of all aspects of the memory/image/scenario.
Comment icon #26 Posted by Baldylocks 4 years ago
They never told me, and there is no pics, I remember it cause I was scared. Why would they just go with it? lol. And the image isn't clear, memories from 10 years ago are not even clear, what I "remember like yesterday" is a ape/gorilla face on a wall what scared me. It was my mom what told me I was asleep in the pram before I saw it.
Comment icon #27 Posted by Nnicolette 4 years ago
Indeed that is the difference. Reading things doesn't account for the intelligence to contemplate or comprehend awareness of your surroundings. Perhaps you overstepped my suggested explanation for why I remember these things. Memories of memories. Not everything written is true sometimes you have to look or yourself unless of course you are incabaple of remembering that far back. I'm not the only one who does. Also when I recalled things and described long gone specific objects, places and situations that my parents had been shocked to hear about and quick to verify. I visually see the places ... [More]
Comment icon #28 Posted by davros of skaro 4 years ago
You must have a faulty memory? There's plenty of personal experiences shared on this site.


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