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Photo from BoingBoing, April 7, 2010

In planning my archeological expedition to my distant past I’ve found an excellent academic reference that addresses some of my concerns about the memoir process and form, and the fragmented nature of memory itself. Here’s an excerpt from “Children's earliest memories: a narrative study,” Australian Journal of Early Childhood, December 1, 2002:


Autobiographical memories are not literal representations of events, because although considered to be true events, the memory is never exact in recall. It is, moreover, irrelevant to assess whether the memory is true or false, as its importance lies in the personal meaning it gives to the story of the narrator's life, rather than the accuracy of the recall. Thus autobiographical memories become the fabric of personal myth in that they form an integrated view of reality for the narrator, who strongly believes in them. Autobiographical memories are self-defining and contribute to the ultimate identity of the narrator (McAdams, 1991). In addition, autobiographical memories are long-lasting.

Ages for the onset of autobiographical memory vary from 3 years to 8 years, but although there are individual differences between children, the most usual age for the emergence of autobiographical memory is about 3 or 4 years old (Nelson, 1992). Individual differences could stem from rates of maturation or cognitive capacity. Prior to this age, children have what is termed infantile amnesia, which is an inability to recall events from the early years of life (Kotre, 1995). Between the ages of three and four, children's language development, and a sense of the self as being distinct from others, mark the beginning of autobiographical memories being formed. Furthermore, although autobiographical memories stem from the child's cognitive and language development, such memories are also shaped by the context and the culture in which the child lives.

Full article here.




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