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Childhood Amnesia

February 5, 2014

By the age of 7, we’ve forgotten more than half of our memories from early childhood.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Forgetting early childhood. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Susanne Bard)

(Susanne Bard)

Most adults have few memories from before the age of 3. But 3-year-olds remember past events. So at what point do we start forgetting? Emory University developmental scientist Patricia Bauer and her team recorded the memories of 3-year-olds and then tested their recall several years later.

PATRICIA BAUER (Emory University):

What we found is if you were 5, 6, or 7 when you came back into the lab, you remembered more than 60% of the events. In contrast, the children who were 8 or 9 when they came back, they remembered fewer than 40% of the events. So we saw this pretty dramatic change in the accessibility of those memories beginning at age 7.

HIRSHON:

But she says that’s also when our brains get much better at forming new memories.

BAUER:

And what we think is happening at roughly age 7, is that the amount of remembering is outpacing the amount of forgetting.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.