Researchers surveyed 6,641 people about the earliest memories they had, and what age they had them, and found that 2,487 people – 38.6 percent – reported having their first memory before the age of 2. Of those people, 893 reported that their first memory was prior to 1 year of age.
And therein lies the problem.
We all know that memory is unreliable – it’s why witness testimony of a crime can be such a dicey thing. But the researchers wanted to know why so many people were claiming to have long-term memories from a time before they could have formed.
Part of the survey was asking the respondents to describe the memory. The team analysed the language used by the participants, the content of the memory, the nature of the memory described – and the age of the person reporting it.
They found that the older a person was, the more likely they were to report an implausibly early first memory.