Science-- there's something for everyone

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Losing early memories

Most people cannot remember much that happened during their first few years of life. Carole Peterson, Kelly L. Warren, Megan M. Short of Memorial University of Newfoundland wondered whether ‘infantile amnesia’ affected children as well as adults. They found that the earliest memories are lost within the first few years.

The researchers asked a group of 140 children aged four through thirteen about their three earliest memories. The age at which the events occurred was corroborated by the children’s parents. Two years later, the scientists asked those same children to again describe their three earliest memories. The youngest children in the study (initially aged 4 to 7) had three new earliest memories with very little overlap with what they had described the first time around. In contrast, children who had been at least ten at the first interview did provide the same earliest memories about half the time. Apparently, early memories are lost not long after they are made.

According to Peterson:

Younger children's earliest memories seemed to change, with memories from younger ages being replaced by memories from older ages. But older children became more consistent in their memories as they grew older.