robertogreco + memories + chronology   1

Where do children’s earliest memories go? – Kristin Ohlson – Aeon
"The great forgetting: Our first three years are usually a blur and we don’t remember much before age seven. What are we hiding from ourselves?"



"In addition, young children have a tenuous grip on chronology. They are years from mastering clocks and calendars, and thus have a hard time nailing an event to a specific time and place. They also don’t have the vocabulary to describe an event, and without that vocabulary, they can’t create the kind of causal narrative that Peterson found at the root of a solid memory. And they don’t have a greatly elaborated sense of self, which would encourage them to hoard and reconsider chunks of experience as part of a growing life-narrative.

Frail as they are, children’s memories are then susceptible to a process called shredding. In our early years, we create a storm of new neurons in a part of the hippocampus called the dentate gyrus and continue to form them throughout the rest of our lives, although not at nearly the same rate. A recent study by the neuroscientists Paul Frankland and Sheena Josselyn of the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto suggests that this process, called neurogenesis, can actually create forgetting by disrupting the circuits for existing memories.

Our memories can become distorted by other people’s memories of the same event or by new information, especially when that new information is so similar to information already in storage. For instance, you meet someone and remember their name, but later meet a second person with a similar name, and become confused about the name of the first person. We can also lose our memories when the synapses that connect neurons decay from disuse. ‘If you never use that memory, those synapses can be recruited for something different,’ Bauer told me.

Memories are less vulnerable to shredding and disruptions as the child grows up. Most of the solid memories that we carry into the rest of our lives are formed during what’s called ‘the reminiscence bump’, from ages 15 to 30, when we invest a lot of energy in examining everything to try to figure out who we are. The events, culture and people of that time remain with us and can even overshadow the features of our ageing present, according to Bauer. The movies were the best back then, and so was the music, and the fashion, and the political leaders, and the friendships, and the romances. And so on."



"And we are not the sum of our memories, or at least, not entirely. We are also the story we construct about ourselves, our personal narrative that interprets and assigns meaning to the things we do remember and the things other people tell us about ourselves. Research by the Northwestern University psychologist Dan McAdams, author of The Redemptive Self (2005), suggests that these narratives guide our behaviour and help chart our path into the future. Especially lucky are those of us with redemptive stories, in which we find good fortune even in past adversity.

So our stories are not bald facts etched on stone tablets. They are narratives that move and morph, and that’s the underpinning to much of talk therapy. And here is one uplifting aspect of ageing: our stories of self get better. ‘For whatever reason, we tend to accentuate the positive things more as we age,’ McAdams told me. ‘We have a greater willingness or motivation to see the world in brighter terms. We develop a positivity bias regarding our memories.’"
memory  children  memories  cognition  time  kristinohlson  neurogenesis  shredding  chronology  experience  paulfrankland  sheenajosselyn  2014  identity  storytelling  danmcadams  psychology 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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