The Great Forgetting
Reader's Digest UK|November 2019
The Great Forgetting
Our first three years are a blur, and we don’t recall much before the age of seven. But, as it turns out, those early memories aren’t merely tucked away
Kristin Ohlson

I’ m the youngest by far of five children. By the time I was six, my siblings were gone, and we went from a very noisy household to a very quiet one. My family has told me stories about those early years before my siblings left. How my brother ambushed me around corners with a toy crocodile. How my eldest sister carried me like a kangaroo with her joey. But I can offer very few stories of my own from that time.

Hardly any adult can. There is a term for this—infantile amnesia, coined by Sigmund Freud to describe the lack of recall adults have of their first three or four years and their paucity of solid memories until around age seven. There has been a century of research about whether memories of these early years are tucked away in some part of our brains and need only a cue to be recovered. But research now suggests that the memories we form in these early years simply disappear.


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November 2019