Babies only retain the good memories

You spend some quality time with your infant child of only a few months. You speak and play, and the child in return appears to respond to your actions with his or her own movements and smiles. Yet you're convinced that between the two of you, only you will be able to remember this special moment: the infant's brain does not yet allow this memory to be imprinted in his or her mind. But can you really be so sure?

The choice between good and bad memories is an easy one for very young children. While adults struggle to let go of their unpleasant memories, babies can rely on their brains to automatically do the work for them. And if you're wondering if, farther down the line, your offspring will remember the good times spent together, a certain team of researchers would say the answer is, "yes."

The behavior of five-month old infants was examined in the study. Given that the subjects are not yet able to speak, it is often difficult for scientists to conduct research at this age. But methods do exist, and the researchers involved in this study relied on eye movement and the time spent attending to each image. In the experiment, babies were shown videos of people speaking with three different intonations: the first tone was cheerful, the second was angry, and the third had no particular emotional connotation. Immediately following the video, a geometric figure was shown in order to associate it with the emotional stimulus. To test how well each was remembered, five minutes later, the geometric figure was shown again next to a new shape. The test was repeated again the following day.

By observing the babies' eye movements between images and how long they spent looking at each shape, the researchers observed that the shapes associated with a positive stimulus (people who sounded joyful) were better retained than those associated with the negative or neutral stimuli.

Professor Brock Kirwan, co-author of the study, asserts that positive affect amplifies attention and arousal in babies: "by heightening those systems, we heighten their ability to process and perhaps remember this geometric pattern."
Source: Flom R., Janis R.B., Garcia D.J., Kirwan C.B. The effects of exposure to dynamic expressions of affect on 5-month-olds’ memory. Infant Behav Dev, 2014 Nov; 37(4): 752-9. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.09.006


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