Twins and “Disputed Memories”

I just read a fascinating article in the November/December 2006 issue of TWINS magazine that described a phenomenon among twins that I had never heard of before! It described how some twins may share a memory of a particular event, but disagree about who actually experienced it. For instance, twin sisters may remember a visit to the park during which one of them suffered an accident that caused a painful injury, but both may insist that she was the injured party! This fairly common occurrence has been labeled a “disputed memory.” Scientists aren’t really sure why this happens more frequently with twins than with other siblings. Could it be that twins so closely define themselves in terms of each other that it’s as if the events that happen to one feel as if they happen to the other? Twins also seem to have a heightened degree of “sensitivity” in terms of each other’s pain, so perhaps this causes a “transference” of sorts when a particular trauma occurs. Of course, if a parent or another person was present when an event took place, they can usually clear up the mystery as to who actually experienced it, but if there were no witnesses, the memory may always be in dispute. Phenomena like “disputed memories” hold interesting implications for the rest of us. If twins adapt their sibling’s memory as their own, is it possible that we may have adopted a memory from someone else, too? Perhaps you “remember” losing a race during your childhood, but it really happened to your best friend! If you’re no longer in contact with this person, you may never find out that your memory is faulty. Twins’ “disputed memories” add just one more complication to the study of the accuracy of our memories.

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About Susan Heim

Susan M. Heim is an author and editor, specializing in multiples, parenting, women’s and Christian issues. Her books include "Boosting Your Baby's Brain Power"; "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Twins and More"; "It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence"; "Twice the Love: Stories of Inspiration for Families with Twins, Multiples and Singletons"; and, "Oh, Baby! 7 Ways a Baby Will Change Your Life the First Year." Upcoming books include "Chicken Soup for the Soul: All in the Family," "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women," and "Moms of Multiples' Devotions to Go." Susan's articles and essays have appeared in many books, magazines and Web sites. She is a member of the National Association of Women Writers and the Southeastern Writers Association, and has a degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University. Susan lives with her husband and four sons (two teenagers and twin grade-schoolers) in Florida.