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Memory. 2010 Nov;18(8):831-44. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2010.510476. Epub 2010 Oct 4.

Childhood amnesia: Empirical evidence for a two-stage phenomenon.

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  • 1University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


The term childhood amnesia refers to the inability of adults to remember events from their infancy and early childhood. If we plot the number of memories that adults can recall as a function of age during childhood, the number of memories reported increases gradually as a function of age. Typically, this finding has been used to argue that gradual changes in memory development contribute to a gradual decline in childhood amnesia during the preschool period. Alternatively, it is possible that pooling data across participants has obscured more abrupt, stage-like changes in the remission of childhood amnesia. In the present study we examined the number and distribution of childhood memories for individual participants. Six adults were repeatedly interviewed about their childhood memories. We found that the distribution of adults' early childhood memories may be less continuous than pooled data suggest. This finding has important implications for current explanations of childhood amnesia.

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