what indeed is the mystery of fading memories

This morning, I had read this article about the aforesaid mystery that someone actually took on as a real scientific study. Here are just a drop in the bucket of conclusions:

“The whole phenomenon of infantile amnesia is clearly a moving target in children, because as children move from 4 to 10, their [earliest] memories get later and later,” Peterson said. “But by age 10, those memories seem to get crystallized.”

As for what kids remembered, Peterson was surprised the traumatic or otherwise emotionally charged events didn’t turn up very often. “One child remembered playing peek-a-boo with her grandfather around her mother’s pregnant round belly,” Peterson told LiveScience. Another remembered waiting for a bus with her mom and there was a flower growing up through a crack in the sidewalk.

Other memories included: a child who couldn’t find her favorite bathing suit and so ripped apart her drawers to locate it; a child who would hide the new puppy the family had gotten so others had to look for it; and a child swallowing a small yellow Lego while in the backseat of the car and feeling like he was going to die, but being too scared to tell his parents.

Peterson hopes to figure out what makes some memories stick and others vanish, with this study suggesting neither the content nor the emotion attached to the memory play major roles.

The study, detailed in the current issue of the journal Child Development, suggests that our “psychological childhood” begins much later than our actual childhood.

“As we lose those memories of those early years, years that we previously could recall, we’re losing part of our childhood — in essence, we’re losing all or almost all of those events that occurred to us then,” Peterson said.

A la recherche du temps perdu, peut-etre?

And then there’s this comment from D#2 on FB this evening:

Quote from a letter I wrote to my sister  when I was in 11th grade: “I just had a conversation with [insert name of boy I have nothing to do with anymore] about theological and philosophical stuff that I will NEVER forget. It was amazing; he changed my perspective on everything.” Yep, totally forgotten. 🙂

And someone commented thusly:

Don’t be too sure: You may carry vestiges of that conversation in your attitudes or understanding, even if you no longer recall the details or the boy.

To which she responds:

Very true, very true. It’s totally and obviously true with so many people; in this case, it doesn’t seem very true. (And I know who the boy was. :))

And then a very dear friend of mine tells me about why she had some problems 10 years ago and didn’t I remember why? I don’t remember knowing. Would I have known? Or would I want to remember?

There’s a system of teaching that I studied over 12 years ago called 4mat. It’s based every-so briefly, on making emotional connections for the learner to make sure that the material means something and therefore is retained (better than something you have no interest in). Here’s a graphic I copied from the website, just for fun:

When I learned it, you had to make sure that there was material in each of the 4 quadrants to reinforce all the others. There was no website, there was no software to prepare the material for you, and basically, I found it too tedious to work, especially in preschool settings. But I got the emotional connecting part–I really did.

But now I see that it doesn’t matter.

There’s clearly more at stake here. Why we do hold on to our old anxieties and not let them go? That’s pretty easy. We have to resolve things to move on.

No, to move on successfully. And that things come back–that’s just to give us another chance to get it right.

Or at least better than the first time.


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