If you think you know your very first memory, think again. It’s probably made up, according to a new report.
Researchers from City University London recently conducted a study, published in the Psychological Science journal, to explore fictional memory.
To do so, they surveyed more than 6,600 people. They asked the participants to detail their first memory and their age at the time. The memory had to be something they were certain they remembered, and it could not be based on a family photo or story.
The analysts then examined the responses, taking notes on the content, language, nature and details of the answers.
“When we looked through the responses from participants we found that a lot of these first ‘memories’ were frequently related to infancy,” coauthor Martin Conway said in a statement. “And a typical example would be a memory based around a pram.”
Nearly 40 percent of the subjects recalled memories that were dated before age 2. However, the researchers said humans do not grasp “adult-like memories” until age five or six.
Therefore, they suggested that many of those thoughts dated before age 2 were fictional. They believed the memories were based on remembered fragments from an early age, such as an emotion or visualization, and facts from their childhood, such as photographs or a family conversation.
“This type of memory could have resulted from someone saying something like ‘mother had a large green pram.’ The person then imagines what it would have looked like. Over time, these fragments then become a memory and often the person will start to add things in such as a string of toys along the top,” Conway said. “The person remembering them doesn't know this is fictional. In fact, when people are told that their memories are false they often don't believe it.”
Want to learn more about the findings? Take a look here.