Perhaps your earliest memory is of a happy time on holiday – or a traumatic event such as a bad fall.
But if that memory is from before the age of two, it’s almost certainly fictional, researchers said yesterday.
For the 40 per cent of us who believe we remember an event from our first two years, we have likely created it falsely after seeing photos or hearing recollections from others.
In the largest ever study on early memory, 6,641 people were questioned about their first recollection. They were told the memory should not be linked to photos of themselves, a family story, or any other source apart from direct experience.
Almost 40 per cent of people claimed to have remembered things from before the age of two
The authors said 60 per cent of first memories were from the average age of 3.24 years – matching research showing this is when we develop the mental faculties to form memories.
But nearly 39 per cent of people – 2,487 – claimed to have memories from between the age of one and two. And 893 claimed their first memory was from their first year – an ‘astonishingly’ high number, the authors said.
These memories included ‘the first time I walked’, ‘wanting to tell my mother something before I could talk’, and ‘the first word I spoke’.
The authors said for older people, impossibly early memories could be explained by a need to ‘complete’ the story of their life to stretch back to the