Study leader Fiona Jack, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Otago, and colleagues looked at about 50 children and their parents. The children played a unique game when they were ages 2-4 in which they placed a large object in a hole at the top of a machine and turned a handle on the side. When a bell rang, a small but otherwise identical object was delivered through a door at the bottom of the machine, the researchers said.
Six years later, the researchers interviewed the children and their parents to determine how well they remembered playing the game.
The study, published in the journal Child Development, found about one-fifth of the children recalled the event and about one-half of the parents remembered the event. Both parents and children who recalled the event provided very similar reports about the game.
"Our results are consistent with theories that suggest that basic capacity for remembering our own experiences may be in place by 2 years of age," Jack said in a statement. "The study has implications in clinical and legal settings, where it is often important to know how likely it is that a particular memory of an early experience is in fact genuine."