Memories form

A further theory is that memories formed as an infant decay very rapidly, and over time we may not be able to retrieve memories as they are no longer there fully. As an infant we are constantly learning new ideas, and so many things happen so quickly. Consequently the memories we have formed within the first few years of our lives may decay as they are not needed and not recalled. However it could also be for the same reasons that the memories are put deep inside the long-term memory and cannot be found easily.

Furthering this theory is that we can create schemas and scripts for events for example birthdays and Christmas. So the memories formed in infancy may make up part of the schemas, and we can’t differentiate between the actual event and the script we have for those types of events. Therefore unless we had a very big life changing events during infancy it would be unlikely that we remember any of the details of a specific event. Nevertheless if this were true, similar to the problem with Freud’s Yet as adults we can still remember events from when we were younger, and they don’t have to be huge traumatic events, overall disproving this as a theory for infant amnesia

From the evidence shown above, it can be seen that infantile amnesia can be split into two main areas of explanation, storage problems or retrieval problems. Storage problems include sense of self problems, researched by Howe and Courage. These problems stick to the idea that an infant’s brain is not fully formed, so they don’t have the abilities needed to produce memories, or if they can be formed they can’t be retained.

The second area focusing on retrieval looks at problems such language acquisition, discussed by Schactel. Where we do form memories but as we haven’t yet learned language the memories formed are stored at a different format which we can’t retrieve now we can use language. Both areas have much research within them to try and explain why we get infantile amnesia. However no one conclusion as to exactly why we can’t remember events from our early childhood has been discovered.

The theory that it is due to brain constraints seems to be most advanced. With not just the constraint of language skills but other brain constraints of an infant being including. For example the fact they are taking on so much at that age and learning so many new things, that not all experiences are put into long-term memory. And even if they are they may have decayed over time as they haven’t been used. These ideas don’t appear to have big faults like that with Freud’s theory, and seem to be contained to the ages which infantile amnesia occurs.

These ideas also take into account for the fact that some people are able to remember things from before the age of 2-3 years. As each child’s brain would develop at different ages, some peoples would develop earlier so they would possible be able to remember earlier events. Overall the most plausible explanation for infantile amnesia seems to be that of retrieval problems. As it gives a good explanation of memories and it is most likely that we do form memories we just can’t access them due to brain inhibitors. It is not just one particular theory but the over-riding area of the lack of ability to retrieve which seems the most prominent in the field.


Davey, G, (2004) Complete Psychology, Hodder and Stoughton

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Kihlstrom, J, Harackiewicz, J. (1982) The earliest recollection: A new survey. Journal of Personality 50, 134.

Meltzoff, A. N. (1995), Long -term infant recall. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 59, 497-515.

Perlmutter, M. (1986) A life-span view of memory. In P.B Baltes, D.L, Featherman and R, M Learner (Eds) Life-span development and behaviour (7) Hillside, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc

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