Essay, Research Paper: Amnesia


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Our brains are constantly at work processing and retrieving information.
However, we become frustrated when we cannot readily retrieve information that
we have stored in our brains. The inability to remember can occur for a number
of reasons that range from simple forgetting to phenomena like Infantile
Amnesia. Infantile Amnesia is described as an adult`s inability to remember
events before the age of two or three. This phenomena has proven difficult to
test because your memory is in a constant state of reconstruction, (Rupp, 1998,
p. 171). That is your memories are influenced by past events, and current
perceptions about yourself. Therefore, you may remember events only in a way
that it is congruent with your current perceptions of yourself, and current
relationships. Rupp illustrated this: Grown children who clash with their
parents may find memories of childhood plastered over with new impressions the
past becomes gloomier and more dismal; recollections of past injustices loom
large. (Rupp, 1998, p.172) Hindsight bias is also a factor in both adult and
childhood memories. Hindsight bias occurs when our memory of how certain we were
about the accuracy of an event is altered. If an event is recounted that is
similar to the memory that we have we tend to become more confident remembering
events in a much more positive light. If our memory is found to be false, we
quickly remember ourselves as being cautiously doubtful about the event in the
first place. Therefore, it is clear that our memories are quite susceptible to
error. Sigmund Freud, father of the psychoanalytic school of thought had a
different interpretation. Freud contended that it was necessary to repress early
childhood memories. This necessity stemmed out of the need to repress
anxiety-producing sexual and aggressive memories related to a child`s parent or
parents. Freud thought that repression of these memories was essential to
developing a healthy sex life as an adult. Though Freud`s theories are widely
accepted increasingly, contemporary psychologists are veering away from this
theory. Memory is defined as the process by which information is encoded, stored
and retrieved. This process is central to learning and thinking. There are three
types of memory storage systems: sensory memory, short-term memory, and
long-term memory. Sensory memory is the initial storage of information that may
last for only an instant. Short-term memory holds information for 15 to 25
seconds. Long-term memory occurs when we store information permanently.
Therefore, many of our memories about our childhood are stored there. It is not
that newborns are incapable of remembering things but the way that they
remember. The brains of newborns are, predisposed to retain certain kinds of
information often information related to survival and mastering the environment.
(Sroufe, Cooper and Dehart, 1996). In addition, babies are only able to store
fewer pieces of information about events and experiences. At this early stage in
life, they are unable to organize and store information in a manner that would
allow them to retrieve it readily later in life. Piaget believed that, babies
memories are sensory motor in nature not true representations. (Sroufe, Cooper
and Dehart, 1996). Psychologists have continually tried to find methods to
understand the phenomena of infantile amnesia. Studies have been conducted using
the birth of a sibling as a reference point for discerning exactly what people
can remember from that period. College students and children aged four, six,
eight and twelve were asked to recall the birth of a sibling when they were
between the ages three and eleven. Researchers asked question like Who took care
of you while your mother was in the hospital? Did the baby receive presents? Did
you receive presents? Then their mothers were asked the same questions. The
study found that children who were under the age of three at the time of the
birth remember virtually nothing. The inability to remember events in early
childhood is not necessarily a bad thing. Actually, it may be useful
particularly for people who have suffered severe trauma during their childhood.
It prevents them from reliving these traumatic events, and causing undue anxiety
that may impair their adult lives. While I am not in complete agreement with
Freud theory on infantile amnesia, I believe that it may serve its own
purpose.BibliographyBaddeley, A. (1993). Your Memory, A User`s Guide. United Kingdom: Prion
Myers, R. (1994). Exploring Social Psychology. United States of America:
McGraw-Hill Rupp, R. (1998). How We Remember and Why We Forget. New York: Three
Rivers Press Sroufe, Cooper & Dehart (1996). Child Development: Its Nature
and Course. New York: McGraw-Hill
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