Amnesia Essay, Research Paper

Our brains are constantly at work processing and retrieving information.

However, we become frustrated when we cannot readily retrieve information that

we have stored in our brains. The inability to remember can occur for a number

of reasons that range from simple forgetting to phenomena like Infantile

Amnesia. Infantile Amnesia is described as an adult`s inability to remember

events before the age of two or three. This phenomena has proven difficult to

test because your memory is in a constant state of reconstruction, (Rupp, 1998,

p. 171). That is your memories are influenced by past events, and current

perceptions about yourself. Therefore, you may remember events only in a way

that it is congruent with your current perceptions of yourself, and current

relationships. Rupp illustrated this: Grown children who clash with their

parents may find memories of childhood plastered over with new impressions the

past becomes gloomier and more dismal; recollections of past injustices loom

large. (Rupp, 1998, p.172) Hindsight bias is also a factor in both adult and

childhood memories. Hindsight bias occurs when our memory of how certain we were

about the accuracy of an event is altered. If an event is recounted that is

similar to the memory that we have we tend to become more confident remembering

events in a much more positive light. If our memory is found to be false, we

quickly remember ourselves as being cautiously doubtful about the event in the

first place. Therefore, it is clear that our memories are quite susceptible to

error. Sigmund Freud, father of the psychoanalytic school of thought had a

different interpretation. Freud contended that it was necessary to repress early

childhood memories. This necessity stemmed out of the need to repress

anxiety-producing sexual and aggressive memories related to a child`s parent or

parents. Freud thought that repression of these memories was essential to

developing a healthy sex life as an adult. Though Freud`s theories are widely

accepted increasingly, contemporary psychologists are veering away from this

theory. Memory is defined as the process by which information is encoded, stored

and retrieved. This process is central to learning and thinking. There are three

types of memory storage systems: sensory memory, short-term memory, and

long-term memory. Sensory memory is the initial storage of information that may

last for only an instant. Short-term memory holds information for 15 to 25

seconds. Long-term memory occurs when we store information permanently.

Therefore, many of our memories about our childhood are stored there. It is not

that newborns are incapable of remembering things but the way that they

remember. The brains of newborns are, predisposed to retain certain kinds of

information often information related to survival and mastering the environment.

(Sroufe, Cooper and Dehart, 1996). In addition, babies are only able to store

fewer pieces of information about events and experiences. At this early stage in

life, they are unable to organize and store information in a manner that would

allow them to retrieve it readily later in life. Piaget believed that, babies

memories are sensory motor in nature not true representations. (Sroufe, Cooper

and Dehart, 1996). Psychologists have continually tried to find methods to

understand the phenomena of infantile amnesia. Studies have been conducted using

the birth of a sibling as a reference point for discerning exactly what people

can remember from that period. College students and children aged four, six,

eight and twelve were asked to recall the birth of a sibling when they were

between the ages three and eleven. Researchers asked question like Who took care

of you while your mother was in the hospital? Did the baby receive presents? Did

you receive presents? Then their mothers were asked the same questions. The

study found that children who were under the age of three at the time of the

birth remember virtually nothing. The inability to remember events in early

childhood is not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it may be useful

particularly for people who have suffered severe trauma during their childhood.

It prevents them from reliving these traumatic events, and causing undue anxiety

that may impair their adult lives. While I am not in complete agreement with

Freud theory on infantile amnesia, I believe that it may serve its own


Baddeley, A. (1993). Your Memory, A User`s Guide. United Kingdom: Prion

Myers, R. (1994). Exploring Social Psychology. United States of America:

McGraw-Hill Rupp, R. (1998). How We Remember and Why We Forget. New York: Three

Rivers Press Sroufe, Cooper & Dehart (1996). Child Development: Its Nature

and Course. New York: McGraw-Hill

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