A lot of people claim you can’t remember anything from your toddler years. According to some scientists, this phenomena is called “Childhood Amnesia” and being typically around age seven. By age eight or nine, most children can only recall about 35% of their experiences before the age of three. Psychologists believe this is because around that age (seven to nine), how we form memories changes.
They say that before age seven, children tend to have an immature form of recall; they don’t have a sense of time or place in their memories. In older children however, the early events they can recall tend to be more adult-like in their content and the way they are formed. Also, children have a much faster rate of forgetting than adults. So the turnover of memories tends to be higher, which means early memories are less likely to survive. This would also help to explain why children can often have vivid memories of events but then have forgotten them just a couple of years later.
Professor Patricia Bauer, a psychologist and associate dean for research at Emory college of Arts and Science, with her colleagues studied 83 children over several years for the research. The children first visited the laboratory at the age three and discussed six unique events from their past, ie., family outings, camping holidays, trips to the zoo, first day of school and birthdays. They (the children) then returned for a second session at the ages between five and nine to discuss the same events and were asked to recall details they had previously remembered.
The researchers found that between the ages of five and seven, the amount of the memories the children could recall remained between 63-72%. However, the amount of information the children who were eight and nine years old dropped greatly to 35-36%. Researchers looked closely at the kinds of details that the children could and could not remember, and found marked age differences. The younger children tended to lack autobiographical narrative, such as place and time. Their memories also had less narrative, which the researchers believe may lead to a process known as “retrieval induced forgetting” – where the action of remembering causes other information to be forgotten. As they, the children, got older the memories they recalled from early childhood tended to have these features.
Now why am I even posting this? A random thought crossed my mind lately, just how many of us can recall early childhood memories? I can recall a few that occurred when I was only 2 or 3 years old. Not many people can do that. I think probably my earliest memory was when I was just about 2 years old. I was born with a fused tongue, which means my tongued was not separated from the bottom of my mouth. I couldn’t stick my tongue for lack of better words. So obviously this would impede on my speech development, and apparently eating. So my parents took me to the hospital to get the fixed.
I can remember oh so clearly being in the hospital. I remember the smell, I remember the room, I remember being so mad that I didn’t want to put on those ugly striped pajamas. They were green and white horizontal striped PJs. I can still remember jumping up and down on the hospital bed fighting with my mom. I really didn’t want to put them on! I wasn’t scared about the surgery, I just didn’t want those ugly PJs! Of all the things to make a big deal about! It was PJs!
Another early memory I have was probably from around the time when I was three. It’s nothing special, we were having dinner and I believe I had eggs. I remember putting them on my head and smushing it around. I thought it was the most hilarious thing in the world, and so did everyone else, because the more they laughed, the more I did and continued to make a mess. Why do I remember this so clearly? Beats me.
So ask you, my lovely readers, what is your earliest memory? Can you remember anything before the age of 3?