When we ask people to recall experiences, they rarely report memories dating from much before about three years of age. For the purpose of this assessment I have chosen the ‘Childhood Amnesia and the Beginnings of Memory for Four Early Life Events’ conducted by JoNell A. Usher and Ulric Neisser, published in 1993 in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Therefore, in the following paragraphs I will outline the aim of the study, the methodology and the overall findings.
The current research indicates that most of the early memories are of distressing experiences. It is predicted that under certain conditions, children are able to recall painful and potentially harrowing medical experiences, such as shots (Goodman, Rudy, Bottoms, & Aman, 1990). The aim of this study was to highlight the offset of childhood amnesia (the earliest age of recall) correlated to four different cues (hospitalization, family move, death of a family member and birth of a younger sibling). The research question seems to be very interesting and stimulating because of the connection between the targeted events and participants years of age. Previous researches suggested that infants cannot remember events which took place earlier in their life because of the underdeveloped hippocampus (Nadel and Zola-Morgan, 1984). And therefore, one could argue that childhood amnesia can be explained in relation to the incapacity of the hippocampus to deal with episodic memory. On the other hand, Schachtel (1947) asserted that peculiar events can be recalled into adulthood but it depends on their effect upon the infant. In other words, memorable events are more likely to be remembered into adulthood than conventional ones.
Participants were recruited from the student population of Emory University. Prior to this, the researchers conducted a background survey which allowed them to identify students who had experienced one or more targeted events during childhood and, as a result, 737 respondents formed the subject pool for the purpose of this research. Participants were aware of the background survey but they did not know that the experiment was focused on memory.
In terms of the methodology, the investigators used a specific number of questionnaires per targeted events. To assess the offset of childhood amnesia two main, broad, questionnaires were used. Each one with subsequent, more relevant and event-targeted, set of questions. Additionally, participants were instructed to analyse the frequency and recency of their thoughts in relation to the target event using 4-point and 5-point scales. Furthermore, participants’ mothers were told to evaluate what their children reported as childhood memories. In order to try to trigger their memory, researchers asked the participants about ‘external information sources’, such as photographs, personal stories, etc. Even though the researchers were allowed to select the participants and classify them into predefined categories however, this...