“I Remember Having Chicken Pox at Age 3”: How Can Age Manipulations Affect One’s Earliest Childhood Memories?

Katinka Dijkstra*, Ineke Wessel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adults’ reports of earliest autobiographical memories from before the age of 3 are typically scarce. However, recent research suggests that the age range of this childhood amnesia is flexible when participant instructions provide a context in which earlier or later ages of childhood events are plausible (Kingo et al., 2013). This age manipulation may be more or less effective depending on the type of memories, i.e., event memories that describe a specific event, or fragments / snapshots that describe elements of a past event. One earlier study showed that after reading an early age example, the age in event memories was younger than after a late age example, whereas this difference was less pronounced in snapshot memories (Wessel et al., 2019). The present aim was to examine the malleability of the age in earliest childhood memories and replicate this age manipulation by memory type interaction as well as the overall effects of the age manipulation demonstrated earlier (Wessel et al., 2019). Three studies varied the age in example event memories and fragments (early, late, or no age). Overall, the results suggested that age information affects the reported age, but not necessarily more for event memories than for fragments. That is, all present studies failed to replicate the age manipulation by memory type interaction reflecting that relative to the early condition, event memories in the late condition were older than snapshot memories (Wessel et al., 2019). Even though we cannot conclude that a true effect does not exist, the original finding may be taken as reflecting a false positive.

Original languageEnglish
Article number21963
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Isabel Schuurmans, Niclas Hasselt-Thissen, Rowan Moelijker, Svea Rietdorf, Theresa Schmaderer, Akke-Marij Ariesen, Jildou Stapert, Vanessa Tapken, Annika Vieth, and Jeanne Winterer for their help in the collection of the data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 University of California Press. All rights reserved.


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