How old do you have to be before you have memories that you retain into adulthood?

I’m sure there’s a less clunky way of asking that. In this thread I asked what people’s earliest memories were. There was a divergence of age, with some claiming they had memories from when the were just born or a few months old and others saying that they cannot recall much/anything prior to age 4.
Is there an accepted age before which you won’t have memories, a specific cut off point or does it vary from individual to individual or culture to culture?

I seem to recall being told that as infants and young children, our brains store memories differently than when we’re older and that as adults, we cannot retrieve these older memories. No cite, so it’s probably wrong.

I’m sure it varies by individual. I have memories from when I was 3. But then again, I have a major reference point. We moved from Scotland to Northern Ireland.

I would imagine kids who spend the first 10 years, or so, in the same house have a hard time making a delineation.

In some sense, I suspect that adults at best have memories of having memories as toddlers.

Those who made a point of remembering their earliest memory when they were young kids have an edge in this game.

I have heard that once you acquire language, you form memories differently. Once you acquire written language, you make another subtle change. Obviously, not one you make on purpose. This makes a lot of sense to me because once a person has names for things the things themselves take on a new meaning, and having symbols for those names can change the meaning even more.

This seems to jibe pretty well with the memory formation patterns of people I’ve known. For some reason, in my family a lot of us remember quite a few things from very early childhood, but we all find them kind of hard to explain to others.

I have “memories” from early on that are in the third person. My folks opened a store in 1983 so I might have been 1 and a half, and I “remember” my father and me going to the store where workmen were doing renovations. However, the memory pans away from me so that I see me walking down the street with my father towards the store.

I thought the results from that thread were quite consistent. A quick review shows that three people thought they had memories earlier than 18 mths, three said four years, and a remarkable 18 people said 2-3 years of age. 19 people if you include **jjiimm ** at 1.9 years.

If you ignore the outliers, it’s pretty clear that first memories are from when you are 2-3 years of age.

Yes, that’s true but it’s not really that big a sample so I didn’t want to make any conclusions based just on that thread.

The bigger the spike, the smaller the sample size needs to be to find significance. When 75% of your sample reports a one year range, it’d be remarkable if that was just a statistical blip, even if your sample is only 25 persons.

Ah interesting point, thanks. Ok, so I suppose the question I’m asking after that is are the people who claim to remember things from earlier in their life (than the norm) correct, lying or fooling themselves?

My guess is that you’d find the results on something like a bell curve for early memory. I’ve read some very credible and detailed testimonies as to memories from a very early point in childhood. Me, I have some flashes of memory from when I was still a pre-potty training bubby myself. I don’t think you can say “Here’s the age memories start” and expect that to describe all of the population.

I am able to put a specific date on what i have referred to as my earliest memory – V-J Day. I was just shy of 25 months. But I have wondered lately if some of my other memories are earlier but undated.

I can, for example, remember the feel of the slats in my baby bed. And I remember that bed being in two different locations in my parents bedroom.

I hope I’m not repeating too much here. My mind got old really fast. One day I’m looking at the baby in the mirror and the next thing you know, I’m wondering about a brow lift. Same eyes. Same mirror. 64 years. SNAP!

My memories start in the late 2 year old range and become abundant and strong at age 3. My family was building a house around that time and I have lots of specific memories that wouldn’t be reinforced by other people later.

From what I remember, being able to form long-term memories is linked to myelination of various parts of your brain, which allows you to retain more.

A quick Google came up with this:

From Development Across the Life Span by Robert Feldman, Prentice-Hall.

But myelination doesn’t seem to be the complete story with regards to “Infantile Amnesia”:

http://pages.slc.edu/~ebj/IM_97/Lecture6/L6.html

I see what you’re saying, but I’m not sure there can be any meaningful distinction between a memory you have and a memory you merely remember having - it’s not as if memories are carved out of something tangible where discernment can discover whether it’s the original or a reproduction that is under scrutiny.

I didn’t post in that recent “earliest memories” thread, but I have in others.

I have 2 early memories from when I was in my crib/breastfeeding. I had always remembered them, but it wasn’t until I was an adult and mentioned them to my mother that she confirmed what I had remembered.

One was where she would place a chair and open a closet door to sheild herself while breastfeeding me. I had no recollection of the breastfeeding, but I asked her about moving the chair and opening the closet door (the doorway to the room had no door at the time, but an adjacent closet did have a door. Opening the closet door would effectively “shut the door” to the room). She said she would do that when breastfeeding me.

The other was in my crib, removing a red music box from inside a white teddy bear. I have a good recollection of this, I can still picture it. Mom remembered this as well, they had remarked about me taking that bear apart. Apparently it was something I did quite a bit, I only remember the one instance.

Anyway, I don’t know what the cut-off age for being in a crib or breastfeeding is (and I wasn’t breastfed until kindergarten or anything silly like that), but those are memories I have from pretty early in life that were confirmed much later in life. And not planted as false memories, my mom was truely astonished that I could remember the chair. She was very modest and wouldn’t have ever mentioned breastfeeding to me at all If I hadn’t brought it up.

There are others. I can remember a presidential funeral on TV from when I was very young. I was born in March '61 and I asked my mom what the deal was with the funeral. She said the president had died. It had to be Kennedy in November '63, Eisenhower was the next presidential funeral and that was '69, and he wasn’t the president at the time. I was in grade school by then. So 2 1/2 YO and I remember that on TV.

No. The atypical responses are no less valid than the typical ones.

It’s not reasonable to call 25% of your data outliers.

I think we all need to consider the ease in which humans can incorporate events they only hear about to their personal memory bank. Once that happens, it becomes impossible to separate what really happened from what you remembered because you first-hand observed and mentally recorded it on the spot.

We humans are highly suggestable, as Elizabeth Loftus has made a career out of ilustrating.

I myself have a “memory” of an event I was part of while in a baby carriage less than a year old. I suspect it was implanted by my parents’ frequent telling of the story and a picture of me in the family photo album. Only a slightly different point of view is needed for it to sound reasonable to my human brain as a first-hand event.

Loftus suggests that our entire memory from early childhood (<10 years) is a mixture of what we know and what we think we know. The earliest events are most likely to be inaccurate. The least likely fact to be remembered is the true source of each memory.

Exactly. My mother was constantly telling stories of my antics as a toddler and I figured out the these were the likely source of my “memories”. Then you have to wonder why people feel the need ro dredge up younger and younger (in the womb for Og’s sake) memories. Is this to imply some imagined superiority?