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When does a baby start having memories that affect her/his behavior when she/he becomes a grown up?
Question Date: 2011-02-11
Answer 1:

For a long time it was believed that babies could not have long term memories because the region of the brain important for forming these memories was not fully developed (the hippocampus). The earliest memories tend to begin when people are able to speak. You have the ability to speak and form words about your memory, which makes it easier to recall and tell someone about it. However, scientists have shown that babies can form certain types of memories. Since babies cannot talk, these "memories" are physical in nature (for example, kicking their legs when they see a specific item or preferring certain smells). Other types of memories, such as those that might influence your behavior when you're older, are more difficult to say for certain that babies cannot have these memories. It is believed that these long term memories do not form until you learn to speak; however, we cannot say this for sure.

Answer 2:

Thats a really interesting question.Unfortunately, its not one we can really test. Science is good at measuring things objectively, meaning things that anyone could measure and get the same answer, like a babys weight. On the other hand, its not much good for subjective things, where answers are a matter of opinion.

If I ask a bunch of people when their first memory is, someone may say that they remember an event from when they were two years old. Maybe they do. But maybe they only think they remember it because someone told them about it. Our memories are tricky that way.

Even if we dont think we remember something, we may remember it subconsciously, meaning that its not something we are aware of. It may influence us, even if we dont think we remember it. For example, maybe as a baby someone lived by noisy railroad tracks, but the family moved when they were two or three years old. Perhaps that person would not be bothered by loud noises, even if they couldnt remember why.

When scientists want to answer a question, we do a test on a lot of people or things, and we make sure that they are all alike except for that one thing were testing. Try to think of a way we could test whether babies remember something from their first year. What problems can you think of? If this sort of question interests you, you may want to study psychology.

Thanks for asking,

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