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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.



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.


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


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


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