by Daniel Pendick
Copyright © 2000 Memory Loss and the Brain
The teenage years can be the best of times or the worst of times, but certainly they ought to be the most memorable of times. Daniel Offer, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, put this apparent truism to the test and discovered that our memories of even the most formative experiences in life may be decidedly unreliable.
In 1962, Offer conducted a series of in-depth interviews with 73 teenage boys, all 14 years old. Decades later, Offer and several colleagues at Northwestern asked 67 of the surviving boysnow 48-year-old mensome of the same questions they had posed previously: What was your mothers best trait? What was the best thing about your home life? What activities did you enjoy most?
The answers they got were surprising. It turned out that the boys memories were quite inaccurate. For example, 82 percent of the teenagers had said they were disciplined with physical punishment by their parents. But as adults, only 33 percent of the men recalled having received physical punishment.