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Why Childhood Memories Disappear


Why Childhood Memories Disappear - The Atlantic

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To make room for new memories?

According to How We Learn http://www.audible.com/pd/Science-Technology/How-We-Learn-Audiobook/B00DCWV3AE , it appears that toddlers are trying to learn usual patterns so that it might be that unusual things are noise.  Once they've learn the usual routine, at a slightly older age they can start remembering episodic events that deviate from those normal patterns.  As this article points out, understanding more concepts makes it easier to understand and therefore learn episodic events.  I often think of small children traveling through the public space with their parents: There is very little that they will remember because it is mostly noise and nonsense to them other than simple things like animals, car types and colors, etc.  I again take issue with the idea that you can't have thoughts without language first, or that if you learn something, then learn language for it, that the earlier version is not mapped.  That's voodoo neuromemory thinking, assigning a little too much special primacy to language.  More likely, as we learn language, we're mapping elements of it to concepts and memories that we already have.  Large parts of my thinking are not done in a language, not a spoken language; language output is a translation from my internal system.

Ah! We can't remember what we didn't have words for at the time it happened. 

More than that (from the class that summarizes all learning research in addition to the article): We can't perceive, understand, and/or organize and attach memories if we don't yet have a daily & weekly routine to contrast them with which gives them context and a substrate to attach to.  This seems to emphasize the importance of routines, probably with carefully substantial but narrow variance, until flexibility hits at 4-5.

As an example, if you listen to air traffic control for airport and flight operations, you probably will only pick out a few key events and not understand why the rest of it is being said.  A pilot understands everything and would notice and remember an unusual event without needed someone else to explain it to them.  Same thing with sports and other things.  If I'm watching cricket, it's (almost) all random throwing, hitting, standing, looking, and running (have I ever seen anybody run in Cricket?).  Ask a non-technical person to summarize a highly technical, jargon-filled exchange about the best web dev, API, and database methods...

We have a hard time comprehending it because toddlerhood is bootstrapping in a lot of ways and by it's nature, we can't remember much from the bootstrapping phase.

What you say makes sense. 

And yet it seems like most personality is formed before a person turns 5.

So the things we do not remember affect our future personality!

Definitely.  Not remembering coherent memories is completely different from whether we are affected by things.  My model of brains is that at the bottom there are a bunch of specialized predictors / simulators for many things, with other predictors and memory built on top of those in various direct and indirect ways.  All of those earliest experiences train some fundamental machinery, in emotional, pre-cognitive, physiological, sensory processing, and other ways.  They become the building blocks, the language-like fundamentals for everything else.  We think in elements of metaphor, with it being metaphor all the way down.  A fundamental human capability is the ability to stack and keep abstracting and mixing these metaphors in an almost unlimited way.  I am certain that I think in metaphors all the time, with a lot of conclusions already memoized from past thought, very much like memcached.

As an example, we almost certainly have one or more models of what a bouncing ball does.  Whenever we see something ball like, or have an abstract thought that fits well enough, we employ that ball bouncing simulation to produce a microprediction that then triggers some next thought.

Fascinating comparison of your love of metaphors with memcached. 

I wonder what the evolutionary advantage of such imperfect memory is. 

As opposed to a hard drive which can remember everything. 

Memories from childhood need two things: Emotion and a Coherent Story.

“People used to think that the reason that we didn’t have early memories was because children didn’t have a memory system or they were unable to remember things, but it turns out that’s not the case,” Peterson said. “Children have a very good memory system. But whether or not something hangs around long-term depends on on several other factors.” Two of the most important factors, Peterson explained, are whether the memory “has emotion infused in it,” and whether the memory is coherent: Does the story our memory tells us actually hang together and make sense when we recall it later?

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