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What's Your Earliest Memory?

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the oddball-saturday-night-questions dept.

News 996

spazoid12 writes "I've been curious lately about memory. For example, why is it that my earliest memory is from about 7 years of age? (I'm mid-30's now) Most people I know remember much further back. How far back can a person remember? Is there a theoretical limit? What are the requirements for acquiring memories? I've read that oxygen is one; as in actual breathed-in stuff. This is supposed to explain why you can't remember anything from within the womb. That seems silly to me. My own theory (with nothing to back it up) is that language is required. We spoke mostly Brasilian Portuguese and some Russian in the home up until I was about 5 or 6. We moved to Brasil for a year when I was 8 and I barely remember anything from that trip. I really don't know either language today-- could this explain why I have no memories of those years? What if I re-learned those languages now, 30 years later? Would memories flood back?"

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You heard it here first. (0, Flamebait)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973881)

Slashdot has jumped the shark.

I remember my circumcision... (5, Funny)

BigBlockMopar (191202) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973982)

...but I was 22 at the time! Ha!

Oh, the requirements of dating an Orthodox Jew. The relationship didn't work out, but I have no regrets. I feel so free and unencumbered, it's great.

welcome to three years ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4974007)

first post (-1, Offtopic)

BinaryJono (546830) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973884)

first post focalhost

Re:first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973890)

no you're not

Physc (1, Informative)

astrotek (132325) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973886)

take a class, read a book, learn. Its around age three if I remember right, we cant remember those years because our long term memory isnt needed or developed.

Re:Physc (5, Interesting)

Squareball (523165) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973997)

I can remember when I was 1 year old. Not a LOT of things, but I remember one thing, and that was a big red ball that I got from my mom. Of course it wasn't actually that big, according to my mom it was a tiny plush ball that was red and I loved it but my older brother took it and lost it outside just a short while after I got it. I also remember taking my first step. I had remembered it for a while but wasn't sure how acurate my memory was.. as in.. if it really was my first steps.. but sure enough.. I told my dad the story and he was floored that I could recall all the details. But it didn't suprise me because when I took my first step I stood up and I was under the kitchen table.. and I hit my head.. then I fell down, crawled out from under the table.. stood up and walked 3 steps towards my dad who was on the phone.. I was holding my head and crying. I remember my older brother was up on the counter getting the oat meal out of the cubbord. I remember when I was 3 and took off my swimmies and jumped in the pool thinking I could swim.. and then I sunk to the bottom of the pool and sat there thinking that I was really screwed... and then my father grabbed me outta the water and yelled at me. So I dunno what it is.. but maybe some people's long term memory develops quicker? I know that at age 3 I freaked my parents out when I said that I wanted to be an explorer.. my mom said "like Christopher Columbus?" thinking that she'd now teach me about him.. but I said "Well there isn't any thing left here to explore.. so I think I should die and then go explore there". lol

I became self aware at age 2 (2)

HanzoSan (251665) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974016)

I was laying down on a couch and someone was changing my diaper, and I was given a mirror, I looked into the mirror confused, eventually i began to understand I was looking at myself and from this moment on I had self awareness and memory.

I can remember from Age 2.5 on up. I cannot remember anything from age 1.

loser (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973891)

This is the dumbest thing (well at least this week) on slashdot.

something meaningful? (1)

mut3 (634239) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973893)

im in my midteens(heh), and i can remeber when i got a cool lookin' toy car. i thought the car was so cool, so the 1st real imprint of something?

Re:something meaningful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973947)

I agree. I only remember traumatic or extremely great events in my lifetime. I don't believe much in the science of memories.

A Much better question . . . (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973898)

Is there a theoretical limit to the number of completely irrelevant items the village idiot Michael Sims can post in X amount of time ?

Actual Memory (2, Interesting)

Malicious (567158) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973900)

I can barely remember yesterday, let alone 15 years ago, but it's strange. I don't remember much before 10 years old, however I do remember Dreams I had in that timespan. Specifically a dream about flying across country, or nightmares about Dragons, that scared me as a child.

I guess it would (1)

Bush_man10 (461952) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973902)

If you remember reading signs or talking to people in Brasilian Portuguese it only makes sense that you would tend to forget what you don't understand. When I was young I used to have a hard time memorizing words and stuff that I couldn't really pronounce. This might sound stupid but I can't really remember my first memory :) I have a lot of memories of when I was young but to put them in chronological order is a bitch. For a rough estimate I'd say I was about 4 years old.

Brazillian and Russian roots...? (2)

caluml (551744) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973904)

That automatically makes you an wicked Linux kernel coder :)

Earliest Clear Memory (2)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973906)

I have memories back as far as days afyter I was born according to my mother and things I have talked to her about remembering...
However the earliest clear fully realized memory I have where I can remeber a large span on time(more than 2 or three minutes and where the landscape and general setting changes though the memory as I move from place to place) seems to be when I was about 2.

Three ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973908)

I'm 28 right now. I remember when i lived with my grandmother at that time. I remember the mariage between my parents quite vividly (i was 3,2 years at the time) ...

2 1/2 (2)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973909)

The furthest I go back is at 2 1/2 years old...the first time I visited the house I lived in for the rest of my childhood...I vaguely remember the previous owner showing us the place, I remember the colours of the walls, I remember the trees that used to be in the back yard...

I remeber the ugly cubicle-like separators they had in the daycare center...

But I got a freaky memory...people call me a walking encyclopedia.

Relevant Stories (0, Troll)

Fapestniegd (34586) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973910)

I can remember all the way back to when Slashdot had news stories Linux geeks cared about. Not dinner party conversation starters. What's next Dream analysis? Sheesh.

Re:Relevant Stories (1)

Oliver Defacszio (550941) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973954)

Some of us remember Slashdot stories that interested all geeks.

What he didn't tell you... (1)

Rat Tank (612088) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973962) that his earliest memory was BSD kernel hacking ;)

Worth of Memory? (1)

Reverend Raven (135361) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973913)

I'm 20, and my earliest memory is from when I was 3 I believe. My family's business is general contracting, and my then 53 year old grandfather was moving some uniform lockers into a building at our shop. The doors/sides of the door on these lockers were razer sharp and when the door slammed on his hand...whammo, cut the tip of his finger off.

What I believe is that we start remembering things that are memorable. Waking up and looking at smiling people and other mundaine tasks arn't worthy of kickstarting the memory centers of the brain. While my mind jolted awake and fused brain cells together to create and sustain this memory, maybe other people's brains didn't deem anything "worthy" of remembering until later on? Beats the heck out of me.

Re:Worth of Memory? (1)

Jucius Maximus (229128) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973956)

I'm around your age and the earliest thing I can remember was around age 3 as well. I recall remembering that it was about bed time and my mom always made be go to the bathroom before I went to bed. But that time I pre-emptively went (to the bathroom) before she told me. I remember being proud of myself for being so clever and 'outsmarting' mom ;-)

Maybe memory has something do with connecting emotion (being proud) and development of mental facilities (pre-emptive action based on past experience) ?

My Earliest memory (1)

SniffleBear (604984) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973918)

Was riding on a 4-wheeled red-pinkish toy duck with my brother pushing me from behind. I was maybe 2.

My next earliest memory was flying to america when I was around that age as well. I remember trying to look outside there was another plane below us or something.

However, you might find some interest in my friend, who remembers his birth (coming out of the vagina and muching on amniotic goo and what not).

I seem to remember stuff (2)

Salsaman (141471) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973919)

...from when I was two years old; but actually it's more like a memory of a memory of a memory of a memory...

The cells weren't born yet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973920)

I understand memory is formed when brain cells make connections. I wonder if new cells continue to be created for the first few years of life. That would explain why you don't have early memories; because the cell that controls that memory didn't exist yet.

hypnosis (4, Interesting)

drDugan (219551) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973921)

you ought to try hypnosis. I've
observed many sessions, and the results
are astounding. If you are able to be
hypnotized (I've tried, but never been able
to do it) -- it may help you remember early
memories. Have someone that you trust
put you under, or a professional.

uh... (0)

REDNOROCK (597025) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973922)

I don't remember..

18 months (1, Troll)

Monkelectric (546685) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973923)

I drowned when I was 18 months old and while I dont have a step-by-step memory of it, I remember what it looked like and felt like quite clearly.

Re:18 months (5, Funny)

enos (627034) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973983)

I drowned when I was 18 months old and while I dont have a step-by-step memory of it, I remember what it looked like and felt like quite clearly.

So how does zombieism work for you?

Re:18 months (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973994)

So did you come back from the dead, or does is /. also read in the netherworld?

Memories... (3, Interesting)

thebeagle (628904) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973924)

Wow. This is a new stretch for Slashdot. Slow news day or something?
Under hypnosis, people seem to be able to remember far more details from the past... which would imply that what our brain stores is far more intricate than what we can pull to mind in common conversation. Some people believe we could train ourselves to remember more... just as we can train ourselves to remember dreams if we write them down anything we remember as soon as we awake. Proust's "Remembrances of Things Past" is a lovely study on memory, what is remembered, and why. I've never gotten past the first thousand pages, though...

I remember my birth. (2, Interesting)

xombo (628858) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973927)

I remember my birth, it was painful and my entire body felt like it was stinging and everything was very bright white, and loud (like acid?). I also remember being a baby, and my mom would hold my hands trying to get me to walk. I don't remember much, but I do remember some things of early childhood. Does anyone else remember things from when you were that young? I am 15 now.

Re:I remember my birth. (4, Funny)

BurKaZoiD (611246) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973953)

I think that's you coming down off X or LSD or something.

Try it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973928)

This is a good question to think about while on LSD.

No seriously, if you are familiar with psychadelic drugs you know what i mean.

It's quite interesting, although some people may find it uncomfortable.

I do have an early memory (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973929)

But i forgot [] .


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973955)


BBC Micro (2)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973931)

My earliest memory is writing a FOR NEXT loop in BBC BASIC to move my name across the screen, using a CLEAR after each itteration. I'd have been about four or five at the time.

The curious thing is, I can remember it too well. That's what leads me to feel that memory is associative: I remember what the programming language looked like, the characters on the old screen, what the code would have looked like and I can remember that I did it. Combined, I have a vivid memory of exactly what that code from that specific instance would have looked like. I can remember too exactly, making me think I have a memory formed of the recombined elements rather than the specific instance.

Alternatively, I've spent too much time working with relational databases and they're affecting my world view WAY too much.

Approx. 2 Years Old (1)

The Jonas (623192) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973932)

When I was approx. 2 yrs old, I remember my father lifting me up off the floor to sit in the recliner with him and watch early morning reruns of 20,000 Leauges Under the Sea on our black and white TV. Initially, I believed I was floating through the air and only realized later what happened as I grew older. Iwas still in diapers. Aside from that, I remember learning how to make paper airplanes in pre-school when I was 3 yrs old.

Mental Development (1)

jarrettwold2002 (601633) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973933)

It could also have an association with your mental development stages. Your brain is still developing for a few years after your born. I'm sure that in some parts memory association isn't fully developed.

In addition, most things I remember from attaching significance to them. Perhaps, when you're young you're not attaching any type of significance to those particular memories. A mental flagging of sorts. As you go through schooling, you are taught that ability.

Memory and hypnosis are some of the things that neuroscientists have yet to fully explain.

Also perhaps it's some of the expectations of our youth. Until a while ago, many a youth's largest concern was playing with toys and etc... Nothing that required memory.

With the advent of computers in homes, I've found that kids that learn computing at a young age retain more information are quicker to adapt to change. The very act of using a computer requires a lot of that 'mental flagging'.

Language and Memory (2, Interesting)

loquacious d (635611) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973975)

I seem to recall reading a study ( showing that infants and young people in general could only describe their memories using words which they knew at the time the memory was acquired. Which would lend credence to your linguistic theory of memory, if I could remember where I read it :)

Toaster cake (2)

Sydney Weidman (187981) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973935)

tried to bake a cake in the toaster when i was 3 and a bit. Remember quite clearly the sparks and flames coming out of the slots. figured that rising should work for cakes if it works for toast.

I can remember my 3rd B-Day.... (1)

BurKaZoiD (611246) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973939)

...I was wearing a typical 70s brown-and-yellow striped shirt a-la Charlie Brown, those hard little leather shoes they make little kids wear, and I was sitting on the car holding my little birthday cake which had chocolate icing and three orange candles on it. I remember my mother taking my picture and my grandma bitching about how she was just SO certain I was going to drop the cake. Hmmm, now that I think of it, I also believe that was the first time I talked back to my grandmother (and certainly not the last).

I also remember getting into the dishwasher when I was really little and pulling a kitchen knife out. I dropped it and as it fell it cut my left index finger. My mother tells me I was two when that happened.

Well... (5, Interesting)

Oliver Defacszio (550941) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973940)

...relying on my skills as a network administrator (and my Psyc textbook), the following is generally held:

Humans cannot physically remember events that happen before the age of two. Any "memories" that appear to come from prior to that age are either a) purposely or inadvertantly implanted by a third party ("remember when..."), or b) the result of typical happenings for a very young child. For example, many children fall out of bed at least once, so you may remember doing so too whether or not it actually happened.

Re:Well... (2)

dhogaza (64507) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973980)

Yeah, my earliest memories are from about the age of two.

Strangely my internal clock always told me these early events happened when I was "about four". A couple of Thanksgivings ago I was relating some of my earlier memories to my father (my mother passed away in 1983, I'm 48 myself, my father 80), more or less amazing him at some of the events which he remembered, too.

And he remembered my age for some of these events a lot more accurately than me. "Oh, that was in 1956, you were only two!" etc etc.

And they weren't common things, and some had internal clues that should've clued me in that I was younger than four at the time. Also you'd think that the fact that I learned to read at age four would've made me realized that my memories from before I learned to read had to have happened at an age younger than four!

But I think learning to read was such a significant event that internally I pegged "being conscious, aware, and remembering" to the time when I learned that skill rather than when earlier events actually happened.

Between two and three (1) (142825) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973942)

My earliest memory was when I was 2 years 7 months.

Memories Triggered by Cues (1)

jgkastra (571174) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973943)

What if I re- learned those languages now, 30 years later? Would memories flood back?

It's probable. There are some theories that state the decoding of long-term memory to short-term happens on sensory cue. If one happened to walk by a bakery, the smell of the bakery would trigger memories of home or of the bakery as a child. Speaking or hearing the language might bring back some memories that you don't recall having.

It's worth a shot. Consider picking up a psychology book at a thrift store, also.

counterexample for your theory (3, Interesting)

konstant (63560) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973944)

My earliest memories are from when I was 5 in a Dutch kindergarten. Subsequently my family moved to the United States and I have no functional recollection of the language, yet the memories persist.

Earliest Memory (5, Funny)

Jenova (27902) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973945)

I remembered starting to really like coffee at the age of six and started drinking it regularly. Talk about early addiction.

dont eat the... (1)

Clay Pigeon -TPF-VS- (624050) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973946)

I remeber being told not to eat the poisonous berrys that grew on our evergreen bushes when I was 2.

childhood memories? (1)

chamenos (541447) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973948)

i personally have memories back when i was two years old. those are very vague though, and i only recall a handful of particularly memorable incidents, such as when my sister burnt my eye white with a lit sparkler and when i got into a huge fight with my parents cos i refused to wear new clothes.

i'm not sure what the theoratical limit is, but people can supposedly remember the times they spent in the mothers' wombs under hypnosis. as for how far you can consciously remember, that depends on the individual.

i think it might also have to do with how fast a child develops. a 5 year old that still isn't potty trained and cannot speak more than 10 words is probabaly not going to have memories reaching that far back as opposed to another 5 year old that is potty-trained, and can at least express basic needs and desires without resorting to bawling.

i don't think language is a pre-requisite though...if so, then people who are mute and/or deaf may never have any memories since they don't have a language to remember it by. those memories i mentioned that i had when i was two, are mostly vague images with some sound, coupled with how i felt then, pain, pleasure, etc and i didn't start talking till i was about 3 or 4 years old.

if you re-learned those languages, perhaps you might better understand some deep-seated memory you've had, but i'm not sure whether it will cause lost memories to flood back. i think you'd have a better chance of that happening under hypnosis. anyway, i am not a psychologist so take what i've said with a generous helping of salt :)

This (1)

NSupremo (161699) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973950) 24216&mode=thread&tid=99

Similar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973957)

Vivid? Vague? What senses primarily?

I "came to the states" when I was 2. I remember little before then. Possibly a dog the family had, but that's something rather vague and something less visual (I seem to remember the barking).

I have a fairly vivid visual memory from around 2. The next 3 earliest vivid memories are around 4 or 5.

imo, memory is probably better a combination of language and long-term stress going on at the time.

My earliest memory is soon after 2. I'm not entirely sure if I reconstructed it though. What I mean is that when I was around junior high or high school, I "forgot" about this particular memory near entirely. Around college, I remembered I had an early memeory but could not recall it, and about 5 years later, with much less stress in my life, I recalled that I had a memory and then was finally able to recall it rather well.

One rather vivid memory is playing around 4-5 yo spinning in the living room and embedding my forehead into the corner of a low piano bench.

3 years old and childhood amnesia. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973959)

My earliest clearest memory was when I was 3 years old and involved in a rather unplesant car accident. I remember almost everything from the few minutes before it happened to when I was wisked away in an ambulance. The color of the car, the color of the other car, what the paramedic and police did, what happened to the car I was traveling in... I remember quite a bit from when I was 3 and 4, but the car accident was the first real vivid memory.

Also, on another note, in remembering what I've learned in Psych class from my college days, it'll be extremely rare for anyone to have any memory of anything prior to age 2, due to "childhood amnesia".

It's possible when learning words to trigger memories, a lot of psychologists do that to help amnesia patients. It's worth a shot, and if you forget, you still get the benefit of learning the language... again? I forgot?

I was 3 yrs old (1)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973960)

When I was 3, my grandmother took me to an amusement park near where she lived. I remember this gondola-type ride, except the theme was that you were riding through space. I remember thinking the googly-eyed aliens were funny. That's my earliest memory.


I remember my first shit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973966) was warm an runny!

My mom was freaked out, my dad just about puked.

I was only a few days and the oxygen in the air was definitely thin so I would say that personally there is no link.

Not language...need to have a stable brain first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973967)

Memory has nothing to do with language (all human beings invent language of some kind, but why would you need to know a wolf is a "wolf" to remember it ate your cousin?). We cannot remember things from when we are very young simply because our brains weren't up to remembering yet. A young child's brain is incredibly plastic - neurons are growing, changing, and dying at enormous rates as the brain figures out how to interact with the body and the world outside the body. Eventually, the cauldron simmers down, and neurons and their connections become fairly rigid. Only then can you lay down in concrete those subtle little changes that store long-term memories. The present best guess for what those sublte changes are is "long-term potentiation": small but highly stable alterations in the electrical potential across the cell membrane of a neuron (or certain areas of a neuron).

Keep in mind, too, that many people who claim to "remember" events from when they are very young don't really remember them. If you hear your family talk about how much you loved that little red fire truck when you were two a gazllion and one times, you start to "remember" just how much you really did love it. Not that this is limited to early childhood - although I have no recollection of the first time I met my girlfriend, she's told me about it enough times by now that I swear I remember being there.

I remember... (2)

JebusIsLord (566856) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973968)

I remember very clearly looking at this mobile above my head and pushing up on these things to get them out of my face. They kept falling back down and it was frusterating. Only recently did I see this picture of my crib with said mobile from a completely adult angle, which stirred up the memory.

Most common (2)

Isle (95215) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973969)

Sorry I can't find the reference, but I once read that most people are able to remember from when they are 2 years old, whether they actually do depends on whether you have ever tried to think back on these memories to "keep them alive".

The 2 year limit comes from the development of the brain, you simply dont have a real long term memory when you are younger or even references to understand what you experience.

Personally I can remember a few scenes from when I was 1-2 years, some of them are a bit strange in concepts, but common to all of them is that I have known these as my earliest memories since I was 8-10 and have thus kept them alive.

Memory needs prompts (3, Insightful)

Bitsy Boffin (110334) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973972)

To remember something, you generally either need to know what you are trying to remember or need a prompt of some sort (a word, a smell, a place, anything can be a prompt really - you'll just get that "aha, I remember this" feeling and memories from around that period will reveal themselves).

If you try to just restore memories you are more than likely making them up (not that you realise you are making them up).

I would say it's unlikely that anybody remembers anything from around age 3 - they may think they do but it's more likely the memories have been implanted (nothing conspiritorious, just a purely natural thing for memories to be "implanted" unintentionally). Reason is simply that a childs brain takes a good long while to develop - long term storage isn't high on the agenda.

My brother's birth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973974)

I was four years old (four years and two months to be precise). My father told me sternly to go back to bed - they didn't want me around while my mother was giving birth. Next morning I had a younger brother.

Strangely enough that younger brother has described the layout of the room in which he spent his first week (and only his first week) in significant detail. I find it slightly annoying that his oldest memory is nearly as old as mine, despite that four year gap ;-)

Re: (2)

rmohr02 (208447) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973976)

I specifically remember the way the stairs were laid out at my old home, but my family moved out of there when I was 2, and I hadn't been back in since. I asked my parents one time and found what I remembered was right.

Some Slashdot editors can't remember (4, Funny)

YellowSnow (569705) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973978)

what was posted yesterday!
Dupe Dupe Dupe Dupe of URL Dupe Dupe Dupe of URL

Three years old. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973984)

It was my first day of nursery school. I don't remember much, except when they took us outside to the play area. There was a two-car garage, and the teacher lifted the door. Inside one half of the garage, literally stacked to the ceiling, were all manner of Big Wheels. I remember feeling like that was the greatest thing I had ever seen-- like that scene in the latter part of Clerks where Randal walks into Big Choice Video, is overwhelmed by the selection of titles, and simply drops to his knees.

Earliest memory? (5, Funny)

DeadMoose (518744) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973986)

Well, I recently cleaned up and threw most of my old hardware away, so the earliest I have is the stuff in my old 486.

You can't be sure it's memory... (1)

Gustavo (64413) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973987)

I have a vivid memory of having visited a famous monument with my uncle when I was about two years old. However, I also had a photograph portraing my uncle and myself during that visit so that although I feel my memory of the event is real I'm more inclined to think that it was made up some years later when my mother told me about it while showing me the photograph.

So, I think you can't really be sure about what is your earliest memory.

Falling Down The Stairs (5, Funny)

spoonboy42 (146048) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973988)

My earliest memory was from when I was one year old. My father was carrying me down the stairs, and tripped. He managed to cradle and protect me, although he sustained a broken tailbone in the fall. I distinctly remember the arrival of the paramedics, the color of the room (brown), even the fact that the stretcher had 3 straps.

Incidentally, my second memory is of my father's return from the hospital, whereupon he immediately went to our kitchen and got some pretzels. I have no other memories of that house (we moved out less than a month later, though).

Anyway, I'm not a medical sort, but on the oxygen issue: I suffucated during my mother's labor due to complications in the birth, and was dead for a couple of minutes before I was ressuscitated. I have no idea whether that had any affect on my brain development, but I don't have cerebral paulsy (the most likely outcome of those circumstances), so who knows?

Incidentally, my sister acquired language at a much younger age than I did (she was forming complete, gramatically correct sentences at the age of 2), and yet her earliest memory is of preschool at age 4.

Earliest memory? (1)

Mike Schiraldi (18296) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973989)

I don't remember.

2 yrs old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973991)

I am 28 and I remember static images back when I was about 2, moving images of 3 and moving images with sound, only stereo though.

I vaguely remember... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4973992)

...taking a big stinky dump this morning.

My .02... (1)

Anonymous Freak (16973) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973993)

Well, I can specifically remember an incident walking home from school while I was in first grade (I'm now 26.) That is the oldest memory that I am certain of. It was some older students playing on the playground equipment, faking that one of them was hurt badly, and I refused to run to the principal for help (to me, it was obvious that they were yanking my chain.) Well, after I had gotten a few dozen yards away, they yelled out "Oh, no! He's dead! You killed him!" Even though I knew they were playing around, it still left an indelible memory.

I have some specific mental images of places and actions from when I was around 5, but nothing that I can declare to be certain memories. (Babysitter's house, a couple kindergarten memories, etc.)

I have vague recollections (could be 'implanted memories') of the house my parents lived in when I was born, and moved out of when I was 4. For example, I haven't been in the house since, yet I vaguely remember the view out what was my bedroom window. I do not 100% trust the memories of that house, though, because my family did talk about that house later, so I could just be 'remembering' their descriptions. For example, I seem to remember the house having rampant spider infestations, which my older sister concurs with; yet my parents insist that that house was fairly spider-free, and that it was the apartment they lived in before I was born (but after my sister was,) had spider problems. So I'm probably just transferring my sister's misplaced memory.

Most people don't remember half of what they claim (5, Insightful)

freeweed (309734) | more than 11 years ago | (#4973999)

For example, why is it that my earliest memory is from about 7 years of age? (I'm mid-30's now) Most people I know remember much further back.

Almost everyone I know has what strike me as overly clear memories from when they were extremely young.. 2, 3 years of age. Often, I've found that when you talk to their parents or other older relatives, the story you get from them is almost word-for-word what the child 'remembers'. My guess is these are things that the child has heard many, many times in his/her life, and eventually forms a 'memory' around it. Sort of how some people hear a story about something happening and incorporate that into their stock of things they believe happened to them.

What we hear from others influences our own memories highly, it's amazing how many people can recall group events years later, even if some of them weren't actually present for something that occurred. Also, a child's sense of time is really out of whack - remember how long summer seemed to be? Things that happen when you're 5 or 6 can seem to have happened when you were much younger.

Memory is a very tricky, changing thing, even for recent events in fully cognizent adults. I don't find it surprising at all that childhood memories aren't terribly reliable nor consistent.

might depend on a few things (2)

The Tyro (247333) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974000)

I'd say that before a certain developmental stage, you are unlikely to form memories. When might that be... who knows, probably depends on the person.

Whether you can recall early memories that you DID form might have a lot to do with the type of memory, and what brought it to the surface. Painful memories are obviously going to burn brightly, unless they are so painful that your subconscious edits them out.

Odors often trigger memories quite powerfully. In theory, is has to do with the sense of smell being closely tied in with the limbic system. These kinds of memories are often very emotional. Can you still remember your first girlfriend's perfume? Maybe not specifically, but you might remember it if you smelled it, if only from the emotions is would generate. I can still clearly recall my grandmothers perfume, and my uncle's pipe smoke (the uncle died when I was pretty young).

It's a good question... a child psych person might know.

2 memories (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974001)

I was about 3 and a half years old, based on the chronology. There are two memories I have of about the same time.

One is my parents washing and scrubbing the empty floor of a house we were moving out of. I was sitting on the floor watching them and it was late at night (at least by a 3-year-old's standard).

The other is standing in the backyard of the same house at night with my dad near a chain-link fense, looking up at the stars. I was asking my dad questions about the stars, but I don't remember the questions.

Mine start at 3 (2)

PolyDwarf (156355) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974003)

Mine start around age 3, with one exception.. I have a flash of memory of picking up my sister from her crib (I would have been in the 2'ish range). She ended up dying before she was 6 months old. I've sometimes wondered about it, thinking that maybe I kept it at least until she died, then my brain kicked in and said "OK, you're remembering this."

Seeing Empire Strikes Back (1)

WickedClean (230550) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974004)

I was born in August 1976, and I do remember going to see Empire Strikes Back at the theatre. I remember it because there was this kid from my daycare in there as well. I remember thinking "NO!" when Vader broke the paternal news to him. I was @ 4 then, I think.

My earliest memory? (2, Funny)

Oliver Defacszio (550941) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974005)


Why we do not remember our early years (5, Interesting)

deragon (112986) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974006)

I remember reading/hearing that the reason why we remember so few from our early years is that there is a hypothesis which states that our memory forgets in the younger years to protect our sanity.

You see, a young kid goes through very rough traumatizing experiences (falling down, being psychologically hurt when mother says no or leave for a few hours, etc...) Off course, these are benin experiences for us, adults, but for a new, undevelopped brain, they are tragedies. If we would remember those experiences, we might have developped some psychological problems. Forgetting our younger years would help us keep our sanity until the brain is well formed.

As I said, its a hypothesis I heared somewhere. If anybody got a link to this, please share it with us.

Earliest memory... (2)

AyeRoxor! (471669) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974008)

"[Regarding age 7]I know remember much further back."

How much further back can you go? Even 5 years back isn't really "much" further back. Anyways, as for early memories, my earliest is probably my mom rocking me and singing lullabies while I could still fit on her lap, and I remember that eventually my feet were hitting the bookstand next to the chair, so I was getting taller. I remember some of the lullabies, passed down to me from her father's mother, my great grandmother, from Spain. Another early memory I have is from preschool. I've always been a science geek, and I remember a kid brought in a periscope for show and tell and I remember coveting it, and wanting to see through it so badly, and wondering how it worked. And another early memory is probably from around 4 or 5, when our car got stuck in the snow and some joggers came along and helped push us out. But the lullabies are probably the oldest. I remember the fabric of the chair, how it was a rough weave, and I remember the bookshelf was black sheet metal that made a tinny twang when anything hit it. I also remember playing with Legos for hours, going to an apple orchard, singing my first song in front of strangers when in my then-church's "cherub" choir for 4-5-year-olds (Morning has broken). I was lucky. My mom is a biology major, and a scout leader. When she wasn't helping me to do great science fair projects, we were going to a picnic, or to the zoo, or chasing hot air balloons. Or she was checking me out of school for a doctor's appt, only to surprise me by taking me to the movies. Dad was the authority, mom was the adventurer. Good mix. Now, at almost 25, I don't doubt for a moment that I was and am a very lucky kid, and I think I've got good insight as per how to raise an independant, compassionate, knowledge-seeking flaky kid just like I am :)

two years old (1)

lonesome phreak (142354) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974009)

My earliest is when I was two. I remember my grandpa taking his false teeth out and biting at me in play. My parents said that was when I was two.

I suppose it could be tied to language, because (having Asberger's Syndrom) I was speaking rather well at that time. Honestly, I think it has to do more with chemical balances and the ability to record, and the usefullness of the memory compared to helping you survive (in a primitive way). The event shocked me, therefor my mind recorded it for future use in case a simlilar situation occured I could react quicker.

Retrieval of intra-utero memories... (1)

heretic108 (454817) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974010) often reported by people undergoing the process of Rebirthing [] .

This process, through a deep connected breathwork discipline, appears to simultaneously engage the sympathetic and autonomous nervous systems via the breath, and open a deep portal into the subconscious.

Allegations of 'false memory syndrome' can't be thrown lightly, because in many cases people have had memories of their earliest infancy, even birth and inside the womb, that have been later substantiated with hospital records, accounts from relatives etc.

Rebirthing is in desperate need of formal scientific study, but the memory retrieval phenomenon suggests that individual cells of the body may be capable of storing memory, albeit in a much different way to the neural-net cerebral-based memory we're familiar with.

Personally, I've seen more than enough to forever debunk any notions that retrievable memory can only be written after the first couple of years of infancy.

Is this a prelude to an advertisment? (2)

Chris_Stankowitz (612232) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974011)

Maybe for "Total Recall 2". That would make this article remotely relevant to the /. crowd.

About 3 or 4 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4974013)

I remember this dream where I was dancing on top of an airplane in the sky dressed as Elvis. Then a bee stung my hand, and a mushroom grew out of my hand. I fell off the airplane, and while I was falling I woke up scared like $&%@.

I coulda sworn.. (2)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974014)

that I was doing something just now...

I remember pretty well.. (1)

gilgsn (239700) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974015)

About three maybe.. I remember going to an open market. Then sporadic memories, but quite a few of them. Of course, every time I read another programming book, I have to loose a few to make space!

My earliest memory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4974019)

I remember going to a party with my dad, and coming home with my mom.

I also have vague recollections about being a hershey bar in my dad's back pocket.

A better article would have been, "what's the earliest troll on slashdot".

Uh, last Tuesday? (2, Insightful)

X-Nc (34250) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974020)

Seriouslly, I have memories that go back to when my youngest brother was born. I was 5 then, I'm 40 now. What's hard is that most of these "memories" are more like feelings and impressions rather than solid memories. I have a number of memories of when we lived in Italy back in the late 60's. But again these are more like impressions than memories. It's hard to seperate the feelings from the thoughts.

Caution... (2)

MacAndrew (463832) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974021)

Humans are vulnerable to false memories and memories of memories. In the first, your mind simply accepts a lie; in the second, you remember not what happened, but what you remember when you last thought of it or, worse, talked to someone else about it who was there. So I suppose your true oldest memory would be something you recall for the first time today, and which happens to me true.

The mind plays all sorts of tricks that infect eyewitness or child testimony, psychological counseling, and so on. Controversial are "suppressed" memories, submerged for years by trauma such as child abuse, which later come out and may be accurate (courts have even extended statutes of limitation by the period of the suppression).

So it is important to be very cautious and critical. I have a few faint memories dating from when I was 1 1/2 to 3, but since I've thought about them now and again over the years I don't really think of them as true 30+ year memories, and they may entirely false by now. Perhaps how far back you remember reflects how introspective and literal you are.

Memory has been studied extensively in the psych literature. I mostly looked at it from the standpoint of the effects of organic brain injury on the ability to learn or remember. I bet you can find many books on childhood memories at Amazon et al; unfortunately I do not know the field well enough to recommend any. Much of the literature is in a subfield called cognitive science that I never cottoned to.

For the layperson, Oliver Sacks' books [] (especially "Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat") on psychological ephemera are quite entertaining, if not rigorously scientific.

More interesting question (2)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974024)

What's you're earliest analytical memory? My earliest memory is probably moving into my new house, which was probably around 4 years old.

On the other hand, my first memory where I figured out something by myself is when I turned 5 -- and I remember distinctly realizing that my age was the same as the number of members of my family.

Of course, this is an easy one to tie to a date because of the specifics of the thought. Others probably don't have memories that are that easy to date. But anyone have any other examples out there?

I have memories from about 3 years of age. (2)

PotatoHead (12771) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974025)

Early memories for me were firsts of things. Like the first time, I saw or heard or understood something. Sort of like the camera freak. Oooh this is new! Better take a shot of that for later. Goofy, but that seems to be how it worked for me back then.

Most of these are snapshots of a sort. There is a visual image combined with a rough time of day, and some direction. Very little sound, unless it was a key part of the memory.

All of them are short like movie clips. Could be my attention span at the time, or maybe just somehow only the relevant things were stored. Who knows? I was pretty damn young!

So I remember walking past a guy (who I could describe fairly well) who happened to be cutting some pipe with a saw. To me this was very interesting because the cutting of things happened with metal. What then cuts metal? This was in the summer about mid afternoon. His house was three up from ours on the same side of the street. The door was a dark color, he wore coveralls with no shirt underneath. (Ewww.) I was walking my bike up hill because I could get a nice ride... His house and ours faced east.

Another was a group of kids all riding bikes down the hill we lived on. They were jumping at the end. One kid in particular had an odd sized sprocket for his bike. He pedaled really fast. I don't have a thought for that one other than hmmm... Oh, and they called him 'little kid' only he was the same size they were. Later on I remember seeing sprockets on smaller bikes and thought they were referring to that with the name. Have always wanted to ask... which is likely the reason why I still remember.

Earliest one is in front of the first house I remember living in. I can remember the shape and color and one of the rooms. (The one where I got busted for turning on the TV for the first time... Hehe. Got started bright and early I did!) It faced north, though I did not know that until later, but managed to remember enough to know. Some people across the street did strange things. I remember their basement and some other things that led me to realize (when I was 16!?!) that they were fencing stolen goods for some thieves. (Don't ask, it just popped in there and my parents verified it.)

Just goes to show you never can tell what the little ones might remember. My parents were surprised that I knew. They moved because of it.

Language seems to play a part though. I can verbalize thoughts I had then. I am not sure if the verbal thoughts were constructed later or not. I suspect almost all of them were.

everything I've ever experienced... (1)

nido (102070) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974026)

... is recorded forever and is available to me. The secret is in learning how to access it. Move beyond "physical is all there is" - and the horizons really open up - because what if your physical brain memory storage is complemented by another non-physical storage system?

email [mailto] for some books to read on the subject...

I have sense memories from age 6 months (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4974028)

I did not know what they meant. I described them to my father. He told me what the event was. I was 6 months old. The memory is sight and sensation only, nothing cognitive.

Memory like RAM -- needs refreshing (1)

jdesbonnet (22) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974029)

I believe I have memories from a very early age
(before I could walk).

My father used to regularly display his collection
of 35mm slides. I saw pics from outings and holidays over, and over.. and I believe as a result of this I still have real memories surrounding those events. We didn't have a TV when I was young,
probably making the slides more interesting.

Also a few unplesant things stick out from a very early age(bad falls etc).

I remember big events at my first home (1)

Phantasmagoria (1595) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974030)

I remember big events in my first home. Like when the stove caught fire during a big party, or when I stole a cigarette from my dad, or when I peeked through the door when my mother was showering and surprised her. I think was between 2 and 3 for all of those.

But you know what? I suspect that instead of that being the earliest thing I can remember, it's rather the earliest thing I remember remebering.

theoretical limit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4974031)

If you read the literature, you will find there are proposed limits to what can be remembered. I think the age of 2 is often cited as the limit, associated with the massive death of neurons at that age.

That said, I do have memories that have be corraborated from the age of 3 months. On the other hand, it may also depend on what you call memories. It has been pointed out that most old memories people have are from a third person perspective. If they were strict memories of what you perceived of the world, they should all be first person perspective.

There are also proposals that language is required for memory, but if you trust what people say, many people have memories other than language. For example, I can remember what the Mona Lisa looks like, or how Beethovan's 9th starts. These, as Daniel Dennet would say, are made up of qualia. That is, the sensations that you experience, and cannot be expressed easily (or at all) in language.

A related issue is what 'forgetting' consists of. That is, does you unlearn something (such as a neural network), or are there other mechanisms involved, such as loss of retreival cue. Endel Tulving showed that it appears to be loss of retreival cue. This means that if provided with the correct cue, such as going back to a house where you lived at the age of 4, you will start to recall other events at that age.

Having known people who cannot recall their childhood, I have seen those people suddenly recollect memories from their childhood provided the correct prompting. This is, by the way, very different from hypnotism, which is not known to produce reliable memories.

I remember... (1)

p00kiethebear (569781) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974033)

Being in the car when i was two years old. It was a relativly grey day to be out, my mother was taking me to my grandfathers house for the day because she was going to be out. Then all of as sudden a huge possum leaped out infront of the car. wa didn't hit it, but i remember quite distinctly the green color of the trees on the sidewalk, other cars being parked along the side of the road. Perhaps memory requires something relativly significant in life. but then one would argue that your birth is incredibly significant. Maybe it isn't.

Well.... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974036)

I remember my assistant telling me not to go to Waterloo.

Oh, you mean *this* life? Damn! because I got some nifty stories.

Hiding under a bunk bed with my older sister... (1)

abelaye (533580) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974037)

...eating a bottleful of Flintstones vitamins. I was about 2-3 years old. She was four years older. -- anthony

coding? (2)

SHEENmaster (581283) | more than 11 years ago | (#4974038)

I was hit in the head by a minivan 3 years ago(I'm 16 now). Since then I have very few memories of when I was bored.

I remember nearly every day of Auto Mechanics from last (freshman) year, every day of of Adv. Geometry from the same year, but not one memory of Adv. Freshman English or Keyboarding beyond the teachers name and some CDs I listened to in class :-)

In a decade or two will I still remember AP Physics(awesome course) or nothing but the different class, variable, and method names of my code?

As for my earliest memory, it is getting my first book on GW-BASIC in second grade. I still have a 5.25" floppy with some of my code from the time and a notebook of flowcharts. I hope I still have a few discs to look back through, but I've given up on notebooks. I just might port some of that code; the "Uno Warrior" was a backbreaking 2000 step 10 lines! Now that we no longer use line numbers, tens of thousands seems like less to brag about whereas 200 with no external dependancies seems amazingly efficient for an "adventure" game.

As for the author's "language" theory; I'll never be able to forget BASIC though it is a lot of fun to insult it. I don't remember Pascal, nor any of my programming in it.
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