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J Exp Child Psychol. 1995 Jun;59(3):497-515.

What infant memory tells us about infantile amnesia: long-term recall and deferred imitation.

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Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle 98195, USA.


Long-term recall memory was assessed using a nonverbal method requiring subjects to reenact a past event from memory (deferred imitation). A large sample of infants (N = 192), evenly divided between 14- and 16-months old, was tested across two experiments. A delay of 2 months was used in Experiment 1 and a delay of 4 months in Experiment 2. In both experiments two treatment groups were used. In one treatment group, motor practice (immediate imitation) was allowed before the delay was imposed; in the other group, subjects were prevented from motor practice before the delay. Age-matched control groups were used to assess the spontaneous production of the target acts in the absence of exposure to the model in both experiments. The results demonstrated significant deferred imitation for both treatment groups at both delay intervals, and moreover showed that infants retained and imitated multiple acts. These findings suggest that infants have a nonverbal declarative memory system that supports the recall of past events across long-term delays. The implications of these findings for the multiple memory system debate in cognitive science and neuroscience and for theories of infantile amnesia are considered.

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