Childhood Amnesia Essay, Research Paper

Childhood Amnesia

A cardinal facet of human memory is that the more clip elapsed since an event, the fainter the memory becomes. This has been shown to be true on a comparatively additive graduated table with the exclusion of our first three to four old ages of life ( Fitzgerald, 1991 ) . It is even common for grownups non to hold any memory before the age of six or seven. The absence of memory in these first old ages has sparked much involvement as to how and why it happens. Ever since Freud ( 1916/1963 ) foremost popularized the phenomenon at that place have been many inquiries and few robust empirical surveies. Childhood memory loss is defined as the period of life from which no events are remembered ( Usher & A ; Neisser, 1993 ) get downing at birth and stoping at the oncoming of your first memories. The deductions of why this occurs are of import for the apprehension of how our memory system develops and the memory formation procedure.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Research Restrictions:

There have been many hypothesized causes for childhood memory loss but really small strong grounds to back up them. This job arises out of the trouble of obtaining dependable information refering to this country of survey. Research is merely every bit good as the information used. Most surveies have used grownup participants who are asked to describe their earliest memories and the day of the month. There are several factors lending to the undependability of this information. In a self-report method, people frequently have trouble nailing what their earliest memory is and even more trouble acquiring an accurate day of the month. Confirmation of the memories is besides a job since it is about impossible to plan and carry on a survey that observes the initial experience to compare with the subsequent callback. The experience reported by a participant can frequently be checked with another household member but their memories are besides prone to mistakes.

In this field there are besides many other confusing variables that experimenters must seek minimize. One such variable is the household specific cognition that a voluntary has accumulated over the class of their life. Loftus, ( 1993 ) suggested that early childhood memories are greatly influenced by one & # 8217 ; s amassed, household cognition. For illustration, a participant who knows that his or her cousin was closely involved in their upbringing is likely to think that he or she was present at an of import event without any existent memory of the fact. Lending factors to this are household narratives, exposure, place films, etc.

The discrepancy of memories between participants besides makes it difficult to change over what is reported into important footings. For illustration, my earliest memory is from when I was about four old ages old and my grandma gave me a piece of amethyst in a wooden quart basket similar to one you buy berries in. This information given its grade of truth is rather hard to generalise since every other individual will tell a alone narrative. A method used by experimenters to counterbalance for this is the targeting of a particular, dateable event common to many persons. In the 1993 experiment by Usher and Neisser, these & # 8216 ; mark events & # 8217 ; consisted of the birth of a younger sibling, a hospitalization, the decease of a household member and a household move. The usage of targeted callback has helped work out one job with childish amnestic research but as we will see there are still many jobs with the experimental grounds that has been gathered.

Experimental Evidence:

Usher and Neisser conducted one of the most influential surveies in the field of childhood memory loss in 1993. The intent of this experiment was to better on the self-report surveies done in the yesteryear and to analyze the relationship between the nature of the events and the age at which they can be remembered. They used a specific oppugning method in a between-groups survey of grownups & # 8217 ; memories associating to each of the four aforementioned & # 8216 ; mark & # 8217 ; events. They found that the earliest age that these events could be recalled was two for the sibling birth and hospitalization and three for the decease and move. They besides found no sex differences for the informations as proposed by some earlier experiments ( Dudycha & A ; Dudycha, 1941 ) . The memories were verified by the participants & # 8217 ; female parents and judged every bit largely accurate. These consequences suggest that the earliest memory recalled in maturity will change depending on the significance and or apprehension of the event. The birth of a sibling is particularly relevant for a immature kid because of all the treatment and expectancy predating the birth. This event normally includes many alterations in the mundane life for the kid and is hence more likely to be remembered. In comparing, a decease is non good understood by a immature kid and normally will non be as easy to retrieve. The high degrees of emotion ( and hurting ) are said to account for the saving of the hospitalization memories.

This survey has been cited as demoing grounds for big memory for events that occurred at the age of two, which is earlier than old surveies suggested. The grounds presented in this survey must be carefully considered before doing any decisions. The figure of participants who responded positively to the sibling birth inquiries was few and many were unverified. It has been suggested that they besides may hold used household cognition to help their callback every bit good as the limited scope of possible replies to the inquiries. For illustration, a inquiry asked what the babe was making when you foremost saw him or her and most people know that neonates spend most of their clip sleeping, eating or shouting.

Eacott and Crawley ( 1998 ) implemented a survey that improves on some of the failings from Usher and Neisser & # 8217 ; s experiment. They felt it was of import to factor out the household cognition and utilize a larger figure of respondents in order to acquire a better representation of the age at which we retain our first memories. To account for the household cognition, Eacott and Crawley questioned both the older and younger sibling. The older sibling was asked & # 8220 ; Who looked after you when your female parent was in the infirmary ( giving birth to the younger sibling ) ? & # 8221 ; The younger brother or sister was so asked, & # 8220 ; Who looked after your older sibling when your female parent was in the infirmary & # 8221 ; ? The comparing of these two replies can give us an appraisal as to the grade that household cognition is playing in the former response. A larger group of participants who were between the ages of two and three at the clip of their siblings & # 8217 ; birth was used to better the significance of the consequences ( n=700 ) . Two groups of participants made up of senior and younger siblings were compared with a questionnaire similar to the 1 used by Usher and Neisser ( 1993 ) . One group was asked to utilize their memories every bit good as their household cognition to reply the inquiries ( called the study group ) , whereas the other was instructed to merely utilize existent memories in their responses ( remember group ) .

The consequences of this survey suggest several relevant findings. The first is that the form of informations collected was largely in line with Usher and Neisser & # 8217 ; s ( 1993 ) findings. Approximately 75 % of the participants who could remember something about their sibling & # 8217 ; s birth were between the ages of 28 and 35 at that clip. The campaigners who were between the ages of 24 and 27 months at the clip of their sibling & # 8217 ; s birth remembered significantly less than those in the 28 to 35 month scope. The informations obtained from this process led the experimenters to believe the callback group used existent memories as opposed to a combination of cognition and memory. The grade of mistake determined by the topic & # 8217 ; s female parent was greater for the study group than for callback, 20 % and 13 % severally. The greatest failing of this experiment was the deficiency of entropy in taking the participants. They were all college or university pupils and likely were above the mean intelligence. This could hold contributed to the early age at which events were remembered. If a sample from the general population were used, the average age would conceivably travel up. In mention to these two experiments, we can reason that an event, which occurs when you are under three old ages old, can be recalled in maturity. More interestingly though, was the show of significant memory from two and a half old ages of age while memory from the first one-fourth of the 2nd twelvemonth is rather scarce. While these experiments provide no account for the happening of childhood memory loss, they do supply some illustration about the nature of the phenomenon itself.

Mechanisms Contributing to Childhood Amnesia:

The accounts for why childhood memory loss occurs are many. They range from a physiological footing to a deficiency of self-concept. The fact that human memory has many facets, localized in different countries of the encephalon is good documented. The undermentioned information, combined with the empirical grounds related to the phenomenon leads me to believe that there are multiple systems responsible for its happening.

Some early theories proposed that the failure to retrieve anything before the age of three was due to an immature nervous system and later, the developing hippocampus. This theory cites a storage failure for the memory lacks including perceptual or neurological immatureness and unequal encryption. The hipp

ocampus has been shown to play an of import portion in the storage of long-run memories and it is non to the full developed before age three. Nelson ( 1995 ) has studied the development of several constructions in the encephalon and linked them with specific categorizations of memory. The developmental attack to the outgrowth of memory systems states that a signifier of preexplicit memory dependent on the hippocampus is developed in the first few months of life. At the age of eight to twelve months, when the limbic and cortical constructions mature a little more, expressed memory begins to germinate. Procedural acquisition and conditioned larning emerge really early and can be seen in newborn babes. The prefrontal lobe of the encephalon starts to go more adultlike in the 2nd twelvemonth of life and this is when we see the beginning of working memory. Nelson ( 1995 & 1993 ) suggested that working memory must hold been working for long term memories to be stored accurately.

However if the cause of childhood memory loss is the underdevelopment of the encephalon, so we would anticipate that a three-year-old kid would non retrieve anything from six months to one twelvemonth prior. Howe and Courage ( 1993 & A ; 1997 ) collected grounds to the contrary. They found that kids of this age could systematically and accurately retrieve events that had occurred for up to one twelvemonth in the yesteryear. These findings are besides consistent with the informations from the Fivush and Schwarzmueller 1998 survey that illustrates that kids retrieve childhood events better than when they are grownups even when a normal forgetting curve is used to counterbalance for the drawn-out clip interval. In response to this and other grounds some psychologists have proposed that childhood memory loss is effected more by retrieval failure than by storage failure.

Howe and Courage ( 1997 ) suggest one possible account for the failure to recover childhood memories. It states that the schemes used to measure a state of affairs and therefore what you will retrieve about it, changes so drastically from childhood into maturity, that the earlier memories no longer suit with one & # 8217 ; s present cognition. In other words, what you may retrieve does non suit your grownup scheme therefore does non do sense and so it is non integrated with what you now call memory. We can infer much of this logically. Children remember otherwise than grownups. For illustration, a kid may retrieve the spicy onion on his or her hot dog at a baseball game instead than the game winning, expansive sweep homerun. Finally, these procedure alterations and the gustatory sensation of an onion is reasonably common and does non deserve any long-run memory.

Another interesting, though basically untestable, ( except for coorelational surveies ) account for childhood memory loss is the development of the & # 8216 ; cognitive-self & # 8217 ; ( Howe & A ; Courage, 1997 ; McKee & A ; Squire, 1993 ) . The outgrowth of the cognitive-self merely so happens to develop at the same clip that most people have their first childhood memories. The theory fundamentally states that worlds can non hold memories about one-self until the phase in their development when they recognize that they are separate and distinguishable from their environment. This normally happens at around the age of two and is evaluated by the & # 8216 ; Rouge test & # 8217 ; . The rouge trial is when a kid is placed in forepart of a mirror with a ruddy point on their olfactory organ. If the kid recognizes him/herself, he/she will make for their olfactory organ. If, nevertheless, the kid has non developed to the point of self-recognition, he or she will probably make for the image of the ruddy point in the mirror. Most of our memories involve the presence of something that happens to & # 8216 ; me & # 8217 ; and if we do non hold a sense of & # 8216 ; me & # 8217 ; yet, so it is improbable to retrieve such events. The events remembered before the acknowledgment of the cognitive ego will be so immensely different than our other memories that they likely will non be recalled. The acknowledgment of one ego does non all of a sudden appear at 18-24 months of age but instead it bit by bit begins forming itself from birth but does non go to the full active until this clip. This helps explicate why there are some memories for really immature kids for events that occur before the critical age of two to three old ages. The autobiographical facet of memory seems to be critical for information stored for long periods of clip. This touches on worlds & # 8217 ; egocentricity that an event is non of import unless it happens to & # 8216 ; me & # 8217 ; .

There is besides another of import facet of human memory that develops at about the same clip as the beginning of childhood memory loss. The development of linguistic communication and specifically interior address is hypothesized to play an of import function in the development of autobiographical memory ( Howe & A ; Courage, 1993 ) . The association is made because of the synchronism of the timing of the two events and the logical fact that participants must do usage of linguistic communication to pass on memories. The action of interior address is necessary for dry run schemes. The usage of linguistic communication doubtless helps form past events into footings comprehendible to many. The survey by Fivush, Haden and Adam ( 1995 ) illustrates how kids & # 8217 ; s narrations about the same event go more luxuriant and more complex over clip, particularly between the ages of four and five old ages. This lends grounds to the thought that more luxuriant encryption of memories is merely present in the old ages after three. This besides fits with the construct that ; the more encoding associated with a memory, the greater opportunity that it can be recalled during maturity. It seems that merely those memories that can be discussed with others will go portion of the autobiographical life narrative. The findings in this survey ( Fivush, Haden & A ; Adam, 1995 ) indicate that memory of events happening before kids are able to associate these memories verbally will be highly vulnerable to loss.


There are many confusing factors lending to the limited empirical grounds associating to the causes of childhood memory loss. In fact, there is far more grounds against each causing theory in comparing to the back uping grounds. Soon we have to settle for information refering the nature of the phenomenon itself alternatively of accounts of precisely why it happens. It is through these behavioural observations and the continued survey that we will derive insight and new hypotheses refering this subject.

I personally believe that it is a good thing we no non retrieve our earliest old ages. Memories of shouting, non being able to pass on good, the parturition procedure, immunisation, Circumcision ( for some luckless kids ) and non holding any control over your environment are likely best forgotten. Possibly Freud was right in stating that these memories are suppressed because of the utmost unpleasantness of many events environing these old ages.

My theory on childhood memory loss is that it is a possible adaptative map stemming from development. Although, I have non found any formal research on this position ( or empirical grounds to back up my claim ) , it is plausible that non holding expressed memory of the first old ages is helpful to human development. Other than the blocking of unpleasantness, childhood memory loss may be helpful such that all of the encephalon & # 8217 ; s resources are devoted to growing and version to the new environment. The long-run memory procedure may pull on the encephalon & # 8217 ; s limited resources during these critical old ages and the absence of this allows the encephalon to come on more rapidly in vitally of import countries such as communicating accomplishments and motive power.

It is of import to observe that the differing positions with regard to the cause of childhood memory losss are non reciprocally sole. The grounds that I have studied in this field points to a composite beginning of childhood memory loss. Dualistic theories have dominated many countries of modern psychological science. The radical positions of psychologists are normally combined ( finally ) into some in-between land with everyone holding that many factors contribute to any psychological phenomenon. This subject proves to be no different. The function of linguistic communication development in autobiographical memory is good documented and surely contributes to childhood memories. It is besides believed that worlds must larn to hold a sense of one-self before memory related to themselves can be retained. The development of the encephalon is besides of import because of at least two factors. The first is that the perceptual experience of events that occur in childhood are different from those in maturity because of the dramatic alterations in construction, connexions and adulthood of the encephalon. The 2nd respects the deficiency of functional capablenesss present during this clip period. We do hold grounds that suggests babies make retain information for long periods of clip so we can reason that some mechanisms for storage of memory exist in the first few months of life.

The lone solid grounds sing this phenomenon is the age at which grownups can remember their first experiences ( about three old ages old ) . There is no difference that the first three old ages of life are indispensable to the development and growing throughout the remainder of childhood and adolescence. In mention to this fact, it is rather uneven that we can retrieve really few specific events from this clip frame. Possibly the merely the most of import cognition is retained ; the implicit, procedural and motor cognition that will help us for the remainder of our lives.


I'm Niki!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out