The mystery of why you can’t remember being a babyBabies are sponges for new information – so why does it take so long for us to form your first memory? BBC Future investigates.
By Zaria Gorvett
Jul 26 2016
You’re out to lunch with someone you’ve known for a few years. Together you’ve held parties, celebrated birthdays, visited parks and bonded over your mutual love of ice cream. You’ve even been on holiday together. In all, they’ve spent quite a lot of money on you – roughly £63,224. The thing is: you can’t remember any of it.
From the most dramatic moment in life – the day of your birth – to first steps, first words, first food, right up to nursery school, most of us can’t remember anything of our first few years. Even after our precious first memory, the recollections tend to be few and far between until well into our childhood. How come?
This gaping hole in the record of our lives has been frustrating parents and baffling psychologists, neuroscientists and linguists for decades. It was a minor obsession of the father of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud, who coined the phrase ‘infant amnesia’ over 100 years ago.
Probing that mental blank throws up some intriguing questions. Did your earliest memories actually happen, or are they simply made up? Can we remember events without the words to describe them? And might it one day be possible to claim your missing memories back?