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Looking at the past through a telescope: adults postdated their earliest childhood memories

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Our previous studies have consistently shown a telescoping error in children’s dating of earliest childhood memories. Preschool children through adolescents systematically date their earliest memories at older ages, in comparison with the age estimates provided by their parents or by themselves previously. In the current study, we examined the dating of earliest childhood memories in two samples of college adults and collected independent age estimates from their parents. Consistent with our findings with children, adults significantly postdated their earlier memories by approximately 12 months (Study 1) and 6 months (Study 2). The actual age of earliest memories was 2.5 years after adjusted for telescoping errors, 1 year earlier than what is commonly believed at 3.5 years. These findings challenge commonly held theoretical assumptions about childhood amnesia and highlight critical methodological issues in the study of childhood memory.
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Keywords: Childhood amnesia; earliest memory; memory age estimate; postdating; telescoping

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Human Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA 2: Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland, Canada

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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