In one out of four cases, the memories of our early childhood are pure imagination. According to a new research conducted by the City University of London, the University of Bradford and the University of Nottingham Trent, published in the magazine Psychological Science, what you think you remember before the age of 3 is not based on real memories but on the processing of feelings and images mixed together. We talk about this topic with Dr. Lara Fratticci, neurologist at Humanitas.
When the mind “reconstructs”
Some people see themselves as children while they are taking their first steps on the beach and others are convinced that they remember perfectly different moments of their very early childhood. According to a new research all these images, at least in one case out of four, could be completely fake, that is, the result of the reconstruction of our minds. The bricks of these images would be the memories of previous experiences, the photographs reviewed at a later age as well as the stories of the family about what happened. According to the study published in Psychological Science, the first memories generally date back to the age of three to three and a half years. The research, conducted with 6,641 people, found that 38.6% of respondents said they had memories of when they were two years old or even younger. As many as 893 people were confident that they had one-year memories, especially middle-aged adults and the elderly.
Mental representations instead of memories
The researchers asked the volunteers to detail their first memory along with their age at the time. The researchers then examined the content, language, nature and descriptive details of the memories, assessing the likely reasons why people claim to have memories of an age when research indicates that they cannot be trained. Since many memories date back to before the age of two, the authors suggest that what you have in mind when you recall these early memories is a mental representation consisting of remembered fragments of previous experiences and some facts or knowledge about your childhood, rather than real memories.