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19th Aug 2016

This Is The Age Our Childhood Memories Start To Fade

Katie Mythen-Lynch

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We all know someone who remembers their very first spoon of ice cream or trip to the zoo, but for most of us, early childhood memories tend to be hazy at best, non-existent at worst. 

The common belief is that memories disappear over time, pushed out of our minds by the ever evolving mental detritus of modern life; email passwords, shopping lists, credit card codes and work schedules.

According to new research however, the phenomenon known as ‘childhood amnesia’ actually begins to take hold at age seven, meaning very few people can remember anything that happened prior to the age of three.

Psychologists at Emory University recorded children and their mothers discussing unique events when the children were three years of age.

Different subgroups of children were tested for recall of the events at ages five, six, seven, eight and nine years. At the later session they were interviewed by an experimenter about the events discussed two to six years previously with their mothers (early-life events).

Children aged five, six and seven remembered 60 per cent or more of the early-life events. In contrast, children who were eight and nine years old remembered fewer than 40 per cent of the early-life events.

The research was published in the journal Memory.