Scientists studying the memory of children say some as young as 2 years old are capable of recalling activities and events in their infancy.
The findings, published in the journal Child Development, are startling because they dispel the notion that cognizance and remembering begins after age 3.
“We are interested in looking at young children's memory because of what it can tell us about memory in general,” researcher Fiona Jack, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, said. “Most of us can't recall anything about infancy. It’s only at about 3 or 4 years of age we can start to remember.
“There will be some people who claim to remember things from 8 or 12 months old,” Jack said. “It’s really difficult to know for any given person if that is a genuine memory, or is it partly due to reconstruction through the stories your parents have told and pictures of the event?”
The study involved the creation of a game, in which 46 child participants younger than 5 placed a toy in a “Magical Shrinking Box,” and a miniature version of it appeared when the box was opened. The game playing lasted two days, and the children were asked whether they remembered it on day three. Six years later, the children were asked again.
About 20 percent of the children — who now were between the ages of 10 and 12 — recalled the “Magic Shrinking Box,” the study found. Interestingly, researchers said personality traits and age did not play a role in which children remembered, but the children’s conversations about the game after the test period did.
“What they did see from the parent interviews was that kids who remembered had spent lots of time, from days to weeks, talking about the box after the researchers left,” MSNBC reported. “One even awaited the researchers’ return with a vigil by the front door. This indicates that talking about the event shortly after it occurred may have helped to preserve it in the children’s memories.”
“We did find that, on average, children who remembered the events six years later talked about it more when it happened,” Jack said. “Actively engaging in conversation could have helped memory development in general and about this particular event.”