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More on language and memory [Jul. 14th, 2011|11:39 am]
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 So it turns out I misremembered the study I saw about children not being able to lay down memories without language. The study I meant to refer to actually shows that children could only describe events using the vocabulary they had at the time the memory was encoded. Which in younger children meant that they couldn't describe it verbally at all. However, they were able to remember it, as evidenced by their ability to re-enact it and recognise photos of the activity involved.

And studies of young children involving conditioning show that even very young children are perfectly capable of remembering things (see this paper which includes a description of tying a baby's foot to a mobile with string so that it could entertain itself, and then checking how long some string or the mobile would elicit the learnt kicking motions), so it's not that children are incapable of remembering events per se. (although that paper does note that their memory of the mobile/string thing only lasted for a few weeks at the outer limit).

There's a bunch of other research out there, but most of it isn't solid and/or is hidden behind paywalls, so it's difficult to really check. But it looks like the 'context-specific' explanation is the leading one so far. I'd be really interested in trying to find other people who've undergone relatively severe paradigm shifts in the way they think, and see whether their memory from before the paradigm shift is worse than you would normally expect for older memories. Or is the preverbal -> verbal shift the only one big enough to potentially make all the previous states of mind completely inaccessible?

[User Picture]From: andrewducker
2011-07-14 07:19 am (UTC)
Well, as animals clearly lay down memories without language it would seem silly if children couldn't.
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