When Siblings Remember Childhood Differently

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Have you ever disagreed with a brother or sister about the details of a childhood memory? Psychologist Charles Fernyhough, author of the new book Pieces of Light: The New Science of Memory, writes about this phenomenon in the UK newspaper The Independent:

“When you disagree with a sibling about your shared past, there can be the sense that the other is playing fast and loose with the cherished facts of your own life. What right does this competitor for parental affection have for rewriting your autobiography as they go? A particular kind of memory betrayal can happen when a sibling claims for him or herself an event that actually happened to you.

[A study of “sibling memories” conducted by researchers in New Zealand]  showed that there was a pattern to the claiming and giving away of memories. The researchers classified the disputed memories into those that showed the individual in a positive light (such as achievements or episodes of daring) and those that reflected more negatively (such as a memory of wrong-doing).

‘Self-serving’ memories were more frequently claimed for the self, while those that reflected badly were more often attributed to the other sibling. If the person at the center of the memory did something admirable, or had something bad happen to them (thus qualifying them for others’ sympathy), then it tended to be claimed for the self. If the star of the memory was shown in a bad light, it tended to be passed off on to the other.” (Read more here.)

This is so incorrigibly and amusingly human of us.

Have you ever had this experience? I know my sister and I have . . .

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