Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The following article is a report of psychological studies of American children that say they remember previous lives.

“Psychological Evaluation of American Children Who Report Memories of Previous Lives,” by Jim Tucker and F. Don Nidiffer (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2014, 28, 585-596).

For reprints write to the first author:

Dr. Jim Tucker

Dr. Jim Tucker


Some young children claim to have memories of a previous life, and they often show behaviors that appear related to the memories. This pilot study examined the psychological functioning of such children in the United States. Fifteen participants, ages 3-6 years, underwent testing with the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (fourth edition) and the Children’s Apperception Test. Their parents completed the Survey Form of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, the Child Behavior Checklist, the Child Dissociative Checklist, and the Family Questionnaire. The children’s composite intelligence scores on the Stanford-Binet were greater than one standard deviation above the mean, with relative strengths in verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. On the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, the children scored significantly above average in daily living skills, motor skills, and on the overall composite score. Thirteen of the 15 children obtained low scores on the Child Dissociative Checklist, indicating no dissociative thought patterns in most participants. The Child Behavior Checklist averages all fell within the normal range, revealing no clinically significant behavior problems. Results on the Children’s Apperception Test revealed no unusual themes, and the families did not show any distinct patterns of functioning on the Family Questionnaire. Young children who claim to remember previous lives show high intelligence, and testing revealed no evidence that their reports arise from psychopathology.

In the conclusion the authors state:

“This sample of young American children claiming past-life memories showed high intelligence levels, with particular strengths in quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning. One possibility to consider is that advanced verbal skills in very young children make them more likely to verbalize mental images. Their ability to do so may intensify those images so that they become firmly established in their minds as memories.”

“The results on the other measures do not indicate any evidence of psychopathology for the group as a whole. Thirteen of the 15 participants showed few dissociative features. Thus, it appears that most children who report past-life memories do not show dissociative symptoms, but the two exceptions raise the possibility that children who have dissociative tendencies may be more likely than other children to make past-life reports.”