Do We Learn to Forget?
It’s a serious question. Why can’t we remember much from our early years? Why do we forget?
My first memories are very vague but are probably from when I was three years old. I can remember some of my first day at school (as a five year old) but not in much detail. Slightly worrying is the fact that in between the earliest memories and school I do not remember much at all in any detail. That’s about two years’ worth of growing and learning – and then forgetting it all. Never mind worrying about getting Alzheimer’s: That loss of memories from our early years has already happened to us all!!
Try for yourself. When were your first memories? How old were you? How much detailed information can you recall?
It is hard to say how old I was when I can remember most of what I did in a given day. These days the same is true but that’s more to do with being at the opposite end of the age spectrum.
What will my son remember?
Recently, whenever Dani has done something new or different, and especially when he has enjoyed himself, I find myself saying the same thing. “It’s a shame he won’t remember this when he is older.”
Yet there are times when he comes out with things that really take me by surprise. He will mention something that happened over 6 months ago. It may be someone he has not seen or a place he has not been to for that time but he is remembering things he did before he was three. When will he forget these things? More to the point how? Do we learn to forget? Or does it just happen?
Time for some research….
Scientists believe the average earliest memories are from when a person is 3.5 years old. As usual with these things girls do better and tend to be able to remember further back.
Naturally there are parts of the brain that deal with memory encoding that do not develop until 24 and 36 months. For example by 24 months, the number of synapses in the prefrontal cortex has reached adult levels.
Another idea suggests that language development helps a child retain memories. If a child can describe an event at the time it occurred then they are generally more able to recall the same things later in life.
This may explain why Dani can recall things from when he was around 2.5 years old as he was a very early speaker. Only time will tell if he retains these memories.
Then there are the warped ideas of Sigmund Freud who tried to explain that we forget anything before we are 3 due to sexual repression. What a dick that man was! (pardon the pun).
Nature versus Nurture…
Apart from nature there is also nurture. Parental influence on a child’s memory is probably just as important. If a parent repeatedly reminds a child of what they have done they are more likely to repeat the same or similar stories later in life.
Ultimately, I think we will never know the real answer – if there even is one. We all develop at different rates and we are all different individuals. Watching the kids play at that early age is enough to confirm as much.
One of the main reasons for doing this Blog is so that Dani can read it when he is older. Hopefully it may jog some memories. At least some of it should give him something to laugh at and wonder what his old dad was thinking. He already does that.