Infantile Amnesia

What do you remember about your life before you were three? Few people can remember anything that happened to them in their early years. Adults’ memories of the next few years also tend to be scanty. Most people remember only a few events—usually ones that were meaningful and distinctive, such as being hospitalized or a sibling’s birth.


How might this inability to recall early experiences be explained? The sheer passage of time does not account for it; adults have excellent recognition of pictures of people who attended high school with them 35 years earlier. Another seemingly plausible explanation—that infants do not form enduring memories at this point in development—also is incorrect. Children two and a half to three years old remember experiences that occurred in their first year, and eleven month olds remember some events a year later. Nor does the hypothesis that infantile amnesia reflects repression— or holding back— of sexually charged episodes explain the phenomenon. (对性欲的压制也不能解释这一现象)While such repression may occur, people cannot remember ordinary events from the infant and toddler periods, either.(虽然这种压制可能会发生,但是却记不住一些平常的事情,对性的压制并不是时时刻刻都在发生的)

(提出了三种错误的解释,第一种是时间流逝导致的,反对理由是成年人可以记住35年前一起上学的同学,第二种是婴儿并不会形成长期记忆,反对理由是两岁半到三岁的婴儿可以记住第一年发生的事情,第三种是对性欲的压制导致了记忆被压制,反对理由是婴儿同样也不能记住没性欲时候的事情,原文用的是ordinary event)

Three other explanations seem more promising. One involves physiological changes relevant to memory. Maturation of the frontal lobes of the brain continues throughout early childhood, and this part of the brain may be critical for remembering particular episodes in ways that can be retrieved later. Demonstrations of infants’ and toddlers’ long-term memory have involved their repeating motor activities that they had seen or done earlier, such as reaching in the dark for objects, putting a bottle in a doll’s mouth, or pulling apart two pieces of a toy. The brain’s level of physiological maturation may support these types of memories, but not ones requiring explicit verbal descriptions.


A second explanation involves the influence of the social world on children’s language use. Hearing and telling stories about events may help children store information in ways that will endure into later childhood and adulthood. Through hearing stories with a clear beginning, middle, and ending, children may learn to extract the gist of events in ways that they will be able to describe many years later. Consistent with this view, parents and children increasingly engage in discussions of past events when children are about three years old.(越来越多的家长们会在孩子三岁左右的时候和他们讨论过去发生的事情,这也与该理论一致) However, hearing such stories is not sufficient for younger children to form enduring memories. Telling such stories to two year olds does not seem to produce long-lasting verbalizable memories.


A third likely explanation for infantile amnesia involves incompatibilities between the ways in which infants encode[1]information and the ways in which older children and adults retrieve it. Whether people can remember an event depends critically on the fit between the way in which they earlier encoded the information and the way in which they later attempt to retrieve it. The better able the person is to reconstruct the perspective from which the material was encoded, the more likely that recall will be successful.


This view is supported by a variety of factors that can create mismatches between very young children’s encoding and older children’s and adults’ retrieval efforts.(有很多因素可以导致不匹配) The world looks very different to a person whose head is only two or three feet above the ground than to one whose head is five or six feet above it. Older children and adults often try to retrieve the names of things they saw, but infants would not have encoded the information verbally. General knowledge of categories of events such as a birthday party or a visit to the doctor’s office helps older individuals encode their experiences, but again, infants and toddlers are unlikely to encode many experiences within such knowledge structures.

(指出了一种导致不匹配的因素,不能 verbally encode 的婴儿和 成人 理解世界的方式不相同,是否用verb是因素之一)

These three explanations of infantile amnesia are not mutually exclusive; indeed, they support each other. Physiological immaturity may be part of why infants and toddlers do not form extremely enduring memories, even when they hear stories that promote such remembering in preschoolers. Hearing the stories may lead preschoolers to encode aspects of events that allow them to form memories they can access as adults. Conversely, improved encoding of what they hear may help them better understand and remember stories and thus make the stories more useful for remembering future events. Thus, all three explanations—physiological maturation, hearing and producing stories about past events, and improved encoding of key aspects of events—seem likely to be involved in overcoming infantile amnesia.



[1] encode: transfer information from one system of communication into another


infantile 婴幼儿的

amnesia 失忆

scanty 缺乏的

hospitalize 送入医院

sibling 兄弟姐妹

passage (时间的)流逝

plausible 看似可信的,也可以指可信的,根据语境判断

repression 压抑 hold back

toddler 学步的儿童

physiology 生理学

frontal lobes 前额叶

episode 一系列事件

retrieve 恢复

doll 洋娃娃

explicit 清晰的

extract 提取

gist 要点

consistent 一致的,始终如一的

incompatibility 不兼容性

conversely 相反的

repetition repeat

facilitate 促进




The word “plausible” in the passage is closest in meaning to

  • A. flexible
  • B. believable
  • C. debatable
  • D. predictable


C 没有到有争议的程度,看似是对的并不意味着有争议

All of the following theories about the inability to recall early experiences are rejected in paragraph 2 EXCEPT:

  • A.

    The ability to recall an event decreases as the time after the event increases. (第一个错误观点)

  • B.

    Young children are not capable of forming memories that last for more than a short time. (第二个错误观点)

  • C.

    People may hold back sexually meaningful memories. (第三个错误观点)

  • D.

    Most events in childhood are too ordinary to be worth remembering. (文中并没有提到)


What does paragraph 3 suggest about long-term memory in children?

  • A.

    Maturation of the frontal lobes of the brain is important for the long-term memory of motor activities but not verbal descriptions.(没有提到对verbal description无作用)

  • B.

    Young children may form long-term memories of actions they see earlier than of things they hear or are told.

  • C.

    Young children have better long-term recall of short verbal exchanges(口头交流) than of long ones.(没提到)

  • D.

    Children’s long-term recall of motor activities increases when such activities are accompanied by explicit verbal descriptions. (没提到运动与语言的关系)

The phrase “This view” in the passage refers to the belief that

  • A.

    the ability to retrieve a memory partly depends on the similarity between the encoding and retrieving process(编码与解码的相似性)

  • B.

    the process of encoding information is less complex for adults than it is for young adults and infants (没提到成年人编码的方式更加简单)

  • C.

    infants and older children are equally dependent on discussion of past events for the retrieval of information(没提到)

  • D.

    infants encode information in the same way older children and adults do(与原文矛盾)

According to paragraphs 5 and 6, one disadvantage very young children face in processing information is that they cannot

  • A.

    process a lot of information at one time

  • B.

    organize experiences according to type

  • C.

    block out(忽视,遗忘) interruptions

  • D.

    interpret the tone of adult language

General knowledge of ==categories(type)== of events such as a birthday party or a visit to the doctor’s office helps older individuals encode their experiences, but again, infants and toddlers are unlikely to encode many experiences within such knowledge structures.


Direction: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some sentences do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor ideas in the passage.

There are several possible explanations why people cannot easily remember their early childhoods.

  • A. Preschoolers typically do not recall events from their first year.
  • B. Frontal lobe function of the brain may need to develop before memory retrieval can occur.
  • C. Children recall physical activities more easily if they are verbalized. (原文没提到)
  • D. The opportunity to hear chronologically narrated stories may help three-year-old children produce long-lasting memories.
  • E. The content of a memory determines the way in which it is encoded.
  • F. The contrasting ways in which young children and adults process information may determine their relative success in remembering.

B.D.F preschoolers选项原文没说,不选。frontal lobe选项对应原文第三段第二句,正确。children选项原文没说,不选。the opportunity选项对应原文第四段第二句和倒数第二句,正确。the content选项原文没说,不选。the contrasting ways选项对应原文第五段第一句,正确。


To baldly -_- go no man has gone before