Imagine you’re having lunch with someone whom I know for several years. You celebrated holidays together, birthdays, had fun, went to parks and ate ice cream. You even lived together. In General, that someone has invested a lot of money — thousands. Only you can’t remember any of this.
The most dramatic moments in life — your birthday, first steps, first words, first foods, and even the first years in kindergarten — most of us can’t remember anything about the first years of life. Even after our first precious memories the others seem far and fragmented. How so?
This gaping hole in the chronicle of our life frustrating and perplexing parents, psychologists, neurologists and linguists for many decades. Even Sigmund Freud carefully studied this question, in this connection, coined the term childhood amnesia for more than 100 years ago.
The study of this tabula’s advantages races has led to interesting questions. Whether first memories talking about what had happened to us, or was made? If we can remember the events without the words to describe them? Can we one day bring back the missing memories?
Part of this conundrum stems from the fact that babies are like sponges for new information, forming 700 new neural connections every second and you possess such skills of language learning that the most advanced polyglots would have turned green with envy. A recent study showed that they are starting to train their mind already in the womb.
But even in adults, the information is lost over time if no attempt is made to preserve it. Therefore, one explanation is that childhood amnesia is a result of a natural process of forgetting things we encounter in the course of his life.
German psychologist of the 19th century, Herman Ebbinghaus conducted unusual experiments on himself to discover the limits of human memory. To ensure your mind is completely clean slate from which to start, he invented the meaningless syllables made-up words from random letters, like CAG or clans — and began to memorize thousands of them.
His curve of forgetting showed a rapid decline in our ability to remember what we learned: left alone, our brains get rid of half of the material studied for an hour. To 30 day we leave only 2-3%.
Ebbinghaus found that the forgetting of all this is quite predictable. To know is there any difference memories of babies, we need to compare these curves. Having done the calculations in the 1980s, scientists found that we remember much less from birth to six or seven years that you would expect on the basis of these curves. Obviously, there is something completely different.
Remarkably, for some, the veil is lifted sooner than for others. Some people can remember events from the age of two, while the others don’t remember anything that they were up to seven or even eight years. On average, blurry shots begin from the age of three and a half years. Even more remarkably, the differences vary from country to country the differences in the memories reach on average up to two years.
To understand the reasons for this, the psychologist Qi Wang at Cornell University has collected hundreds of memories from Chinese and American students. And predict how national stereotypes, history of the Americans was longer defiantly egocentrica and harder. Chinese history, on the other hand, was shorter, and in fact on average, they also began six months later.
This situation is reinforced by numerous other studies. More detailed and drawn to himself the memories easier to recall. It is believed that this helps narcissism, since the acquisition of their own point of view gives the events meaning.
There is a difference between these thoughts: At the zoo tigers and I saw tigers at the zoo was both scary and fun, says Robin Fivush, a psychologist from Emory University.
When van was again conducted this experiment, this time interviewing the mothers of the children, she found the same schemes. So if your memories are foggy, blame it on their parents.
First memory van describes Hiking in the mountains near the house of her family in Chongqing, China with his mother and sister. She was about six. But she didn’t ask about it until she moved to the United States. “In Eastern cultures, childhood memories are not particularly important. People are surprised that someone can ask such a question,” she says.
If society tells you that those memories are important to you, you will keep them,” says van. The record for the earliest memories is owned by Maori in New Zealand culture which includes a strong focus on the past. Many may recall the events which occurred at the age of two and a half years.
Our culture can also determine how we speak about our memories, and some psychologists believe that memories appear only when we master it.
Language helps us to provide the structure of our memories, narrative. In the process of creating history, the experience becomes more organized, and therefore easier to remember for a long time, says Fivush. Some psychologists doubt that it plays a big role. They say there is no difference between the age at which deaf children raised without sign language, report their earliest memories, for example.
All this leads us to the following theory: we cannot remember the early years just because our brain has not got the necessary equipment. This explanation derives from the most famous man in the history of neuroscience, known as patient HM. After an unsuccessful surgery to treat his epilepsy, which has damaged the hippocampus, HM could not remember any new events. It is the center of our ability to learn and remember. If I didn’t have the hippocampus, I wouldn’t be able to remember this conversation, says Jeffrey Feige, studying memory and learning at the University of St. John’s.
It is noteworthy, however, that he was still able to learn other kinds of information — like babies. When scientists asked him to copy a drawing a five-pointed star, looking at him in the mirror (this is not as easy as it seems), it got better with each round of practice, despite the fact that the experience itself was for him a brand new one.
Perhaps when we are very young, the hippocampus is simply not developed enough to create a rich memory of the event. The babies of rats, monkeys and humans continue to receive new neurons in the hippocampus in the first few years of life, and none of us can create long-lasting memories in infancy — and everything indicates that the moment we cease to create new neurons, we suddenly begin to form long-term memory. In infancy, the hippocampus remains highly underdeveloped, says Feige.
But loses if the hippocampus neasfaltirovanyj our long-term memories or they do not form? As events experienced in childhood, can influence our behavior long after we erase them from memory psychologists believe that somewhere they have to stay. “Maybe memories are stored in a place which is inaccessible to us, but to demonstrate it empirically is very difficult,” says Feige.
While our childhood, probably full of false memories of events that never happened.
Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, has dedicated his career to studying this phenomenon. People pick up speculation and visualize them — they become like memories, she says.
Loftus knows firsthand how it happens. Her mother drowned in the pool when she was only 16 years old. A few years later a relative had convinced her that she saw her floating body. Memories flooded the mind while a week later the relative called and explained that Loftus got it wrong.
Of course, people like to know that his memories are fake? To convince skeptics, Loftus need irrefutable evidence. In 1980-ies she invited volunteers to research and self-sown memories.
Loftus launched an elaborate lie about a sad trip to the Mall, where they got lost, and then was rescued by a gentle elderly woman and reunited with her family. To make the event even more similar to the truth, she even dragged their families. We usually say study participants that, well, we talked to your mom, your mom told me about something that happened to you. Almost a third of subjects recalled the event in vivid detail. In fact, we are more confident in their false memories than those that occurred in reality.
Even if your memories are based on real events, they probably were cut and processed retroactively — those memories planted by conversations, not specific memories in the first person.
Perhaps the biggest mystery is not why we can’t remember childhood but can we trust our own memories.