How can we be formed by our childhood's environment if we don't remember much of it?

How can we be formed by our childhood's environment if we don't remember much of it?

Studies with rats have shown that how much a pup is licked during their early childhood predicts their adult personality [1]. Also, many psychologists say that early childhood is the part of our lives where our personality is formed [2]. However, recent evidence suggests that childhood memories are actively removed, to be replaced with new ones [3]. So how can childhood affect us so much?

It all comes down to the type of memory.

Infantile amnesia is largely associated with the loss of episodic memory, a type of explicit memory that can be consciously recalled (eg, remembering a past event). Implicit memory, such as learned skills (eg, remembering how to tie your shoes), the learned part of personality, and priming associations, are largely unaffected.

Though the reasons for infantile amnesia are not well understood, it has some similarity to retrograde amnesia, that also affects mostly episodic memory, but not implicit memory (so again, you lose memories of past events, but not your personality). The hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory consolidation, is an important factor in both types of amnesia.

PS: The first article you link to is about genetics, or specifically epigenetics, that is to do with gene expression. This is a completely different factor that is also immune to amnesia since it is not related to memory, and so far it is only implicated in a very few traits.

How we form habits, change existing ones

Much of our daily lives are taken up by habits that we've formed over our lifetime. An important characteristic of a habit is that it's automatic-- we don't always recognize habits in our own behavior. Studies show that about 40 percent of people's daily activities are performed each day in almost the same situations. Habits emerge through associative learning. "We find patterns of behavior that allow us to reach goals. We repeat what works, and when actions are repeated in a stable context, we form associations between cues and response," Wendy Wood explains in her session at the American Psychological Association's 122nd Annual Convention.

What are habits?

Wood calls attention to the neurology of habits, and how they have a recognizable neural signature. When you are learning a response you engage your associative basal ganglia, which involves the prefrontal cortex and supports working memory so you can make decisions. As you repeat the behavior in the same context, the information is reorganized in your brain. It shifts to the sensory motor loop that supports representations of cue response associations, and no longer retains information on the goal or outcome. This shift from goal directed to context cue response helps to explain why our habits are rigid behaviors.

There is a dual mind at play, Wood explains. When our intentional mind is engaged, we act in ways that meet an outcome we desire and typically we're aware of our intentions. Intentions can change quickly because we can make conscious decisions about what we want to do in the future that may be different from the past. However, when the habitual mind is engaged, our habits function largely outside of awareness. We can't easily articulate how we do our habits or why we do them, and they change slowly through repeated experience. "Our minds don't always integrate in the best way possible. Even when you know the right answer, you can't make yourself change the habitual behavior," Wood says.

Participants in a study were asked to taste popcorn, and as expected, fresh popcorn was preferable to stale. But when participants were given popcorn in a movie theater, people who have a habit of eating popcorn at the movies ate just as much stale popcorn as participants in the fresh popcorn group. "The thoughtful intentional mind is easily derailed and people tend to fall back on habitual behaviors. Forty percent of the time we're not thinking about what we're doing," Wood interjects. "Habits allow us to focus on other things&hellipWillpower is a limited resource, and when it runs out you fall back on habits."

How can we change our habits?

Public service announcements, educational programs, community workshops, and weight-loss programs are all geared toward improving your day-to-day habits. But are they really effective? These standard interventions are very successful at increasing motivation and desire. You will almost always leave feeling like you can change and that you want to change. The programs give you knowledge and goal-setting strategies for implementation, but these programs only address the intentional mind.

In a study on the "Take 5" program, 35 percent of people polled came away believing they should eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day. Looking at that result, it appears that the national program was effective at teaching people that it's important to have 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. But the data changes when you ask what people are actually eating. Only 11 percent of people reported that they met this goal. The program changed people's intentions, but it did not overrule habitual behavior.

According to Wood, there are three main principles to consider when effectively changing habitual behavior. First, you must derail existing habits and create a window of opportunity to act on new intentions. Someone who moves to a new city or changes jobs has the perfect scenario to disrupt old cues and create new habits. When the cues for existing habits are removed, it's easier to form a new behavior. If you can't alter your entire environment by switching cities-- make small changes. For instance, if weight-loss or healthy eating is your goal, try moving unhealthy foods to a top shelf out of reach, or to the back of the freezer instead of in front.

The second principle is remembering that repetition is key. Studies have shown it can take anywhere from 15 days to 254 days to truly form a new habit. "There's no easy formula for how long it takes," Wood says. Lastly, there must be stable context cues available in order to trigger a new pattern. "It's easier to maintain the behavior if it's repeated in a specific context," Wood emphasizes. Flossing after you brush your teeth allows the act of brushing to be the cue to remember to floss. Reversing the two behaviors is not as successful at creating a new flossing habit. Having an initial cue is a crucial component.

Psychology Chapter 7

consolidation: neurological process that involves gradually converting information from short-term memory into long-term memory.

the neural process by which encoded info becomes stored in memory

As neurons fire simultaneously , they will grow more dendrites towards one another

This makes the neurons more likely to fire together again in the future

process is central to the neural basis of memory consolidation

when a presynaptic neuron is given a brief electrical pulse, there's a slight probability that the postsynaptic neuron will fire

applying intense and frequent pulses to the presynaptic neuron leads to a greater probability that the postsynaptic neuron will fire

When a single brief pulse is applied afterward, it produces the greatest probability that the postsynaptic neuron will fire

everyday he'd have seizures making it impossible for him to live a normal life

his seizures started in the temporal lobe and spread through his brain

surgery = only treatment option because the right medicine was not available

took out parts of medial temporal lobe, including hippocampus


never remembered day of week, year, age, but he could talk about his childhood, explain baseball rules, etc. things he knew before surgery

he could hold a convo as long as he wasn't distracted but forgot the convo in a minute or less

he could remember things for short periods, since he could have convos

Hippocampus: in temporal lobe, important for the ability to store new memories

temporal lobes: important for being able to say what you remember

cortical areas involved in visual perception: where visual information is stored

auditory perception: where sound is stored


Storage occurs in the particular brain regions engaged during the perception, processing, and analysis of material being learned

Once connections are formed and straightened via consolidation, the MTL becomes less important (Long-term memory stabilizes)

long term potentiation is biological side of learning it is consolidation, turns short term to long term

but then when you don't use that information or memory for a while the dendrites prune and the memory or information is lost

Consolidation occurs when a routine is repeated for a long period of time.

Doing an activity for an extended amount of time, making it almost a rhythm or cycle which allows it to be more easily remembered.

Having a routine in your short-term memory for so long that it becomes consolidated into long-term memory, because you do it so often.

happens each time a memory is activated and placed back in storage

Newly re-consolidated memories may differ from their original versions!

action of reactivating existing memories from the past.

not immediately observable.

any mental, social, or physical action or practice that is not immediately observable.

juggling two tasks usually impairs performance on both (we are NOT good multi-taskers)

must say the color rather than the word

Reading = automatic, naming colors is not

We are only aware of the "gist" of what is in front of us

we can attend to a limited amount of information

actively looking for a difference and you still fail to see it

you look for it you still miss it

might remember looking in a crowded street with stores and restaurants, but you wouldn't notice that the names of the stores had changed

Attention is focused elsewhere in the visual scene (counting the number of passes), so it does not detect the gorilla

you are locked on to something else,

because you are locked in to something you fail to notice something going on right in front of your face.

Atkinson & Shiffrin's Three stage model:

encoding, storage, retrieval

they collect data from environment and sensory memory perseveres info in its original sensory form for a brief time

your experience of the world is populated by your sensory memory

we only use what we are paying attention to and what is relevant to our immediate goals

lasts only a fraction of a second

we aren't aware that its operating

occurs when a light, a sound, an odor, a taste or a tactical impression leaves a vanishing trace on the nervous system for a fraction of a second

fraction of a second. ex: you can hold traces of light for a brief time,

Echoic store:
your auditory sensory register, allows you to hold the sound of someones voice briefly as you interpret what the person is telling you, important for understanding language

helps you decide what gets your focus and what gets ignored.

it is impossible to give attention to every stimulus in the environment we use selective attention to select what stimuli are important as events occur

depends on the person and their ability to focus and concentrate

it's effected by distractions in the environment

ex: you have all your focus on reading, and then you get a cramp. the cramp will demand your attention and whatever you're reading will leave your consciousness until you attend to the muscle

holds stuff for a while and then goes away or goes into long term memory

an active processing unit that deals with multiple types of information

short term memory is interchangeable
encoding types can still happen in short term memory

Forms of memory codes:

semantic: abstract remember main idea of what someone says not every little detail

motor plans: you can store a set of actions you need to perform ( need to do laundry, need to make sandwich, etc)

verbal viscion spatial semantic

Millers magic number: 7 plus or minus 2

Up to 20 seconds without rehearsal

we can hold this much in our short term memory

if you don't rehearse words in short term memory for example, it will decay after it gets no attention for 20 seconds

Capacity demonstration: 43 , 541, 6259, 41875, (cut off, lower level) 396325, (normal range for short term memory, where everyone sat down), 4179543, 92143758, 315719864, 8394

when you rehearse, you increase chances

have a tendacy to reherse the first things

the relatively permanent storage of information

Unlimited capacity store can hold info over lengthy periods of time (still arguing about it, it is able to hold memories for a long time, but we don't know capacity)

allows you to remember childhood memories, meanings of spelling words you barely use, what you ate for lunch yesterday, etc.

difference between long-term and working memory: long term has longer duration and far greater capacity

Information enters permanent storage through rehearsal, you need to practice to become good at a certain activity

Some research suggests that once formed, memory in LTM is permanent

still somewhat controversial

stuff you start out will when you study gets a primacy bump, stuff you start with at the end gets a recency effect

working memory should replace short term
short term = space holder
badly said no we can change info we are holding so we have working memory

replaces short term with working memory because working memory can manipulate what happens and short term cannot. working memory is active, short term memory is passive just receives information

working memory allows you to manipulate memory when its in the short term state: Sensory, working, long term

working and short are different things

Instead of all information going into one single store, there are different systems for different types of information.

he also pointed out when we hold stuff in short term, we can have verbal and visual and abstract meaning, motor representations, there are diff systems that exist in short term memory

it is several things working together at once to give us the ability to manipulate

if you are repeating info in your head, verbal info does not interfere with visual information, and visual info does not interfere with verbal information,

If someone verbally tells you a phone number, this is handled directly by the phonological loop. If you read the number, you'll convert those numbers to speech in your mind.

you can have someone try to learn diff details of a pic or have them recite alphabet and it wont interfere with the task because they use different information

has two jobs, visual info, and spatial info is processed there

like location and identity

visual info: can be static

spacial example: pyramid, you moved the pyramid around to see the colors

episodic: allows you to move info from phonological loop into visuo space pad

This theory is used to explain why memories can be experienced as a coordinated sequence of events rather than as disconnected parts.

allows representations to be recorded Aids in chunking info

provides a half step with those two steps, takes verbal codes and turn them into visual, vise versa, allows us to chunk info better, Integrates info

Baddley left out important steps

you get a mental image of what characters are doing in head when you read

Drives the whole system. the boss of working memory

deals with cognitive tasks such as mental arithmetic and problem solving.

distributes data to the subsystems VSS & PLL

how easily you retrieve a memory depends on the number and types of associations you form

the more associations you form the more likely you're going to remember what u need to

if you don't form multiple associations you are less likely going to remember

the more stuff you can connect a piece of information to the more you're going to remember

the more dendritic connection you grow and it makes the info resistant to be deleted or decaying or vanishing in memory due to fact you aren't using it

you wanna use more intense studying methods

if you're just reading notes, and re read you are not engaging, maintenance rehearsal not effect

linked with LOPP(levels of processing principle) we form association with pieces of info, but some of them we not stop to think about how they affect how memory system works

easier to remember something in the same environment in which it was originally encoded (Godden and Badly, 1975)

means if you are studying psych in this class your gunna have an easier time remembering psych material in this class

if you're studying psych in lib you'll have higher level of recall of psych in the lib

if you learned list while sitting at pool, you remembered better if you were still at bottom

if you were at the bottom, and then recall at the surface you did worse

if you learn list on the side, then jump in the pool recall is worse

how do you feel during that time

if you're hungry while studying, you get hungry to take a test

if you study using coffee, bring coffee to exam, because it can work as retrieval cue

emotional arousal increases production of cortisol and epinephrine, which stimulate the amygdala which stimulates the hippocampus

it allows you to grab more details and create a more vivid memory when emotions are involved with it

Panic will impair memory, but emotion within normal limits enhances memory

Emotional arousal also increases your confidence that the memory must be right

vivid emotional memory can still be distorted, even when an emotional memory is wrong, we still think its correct

example of episodic memory

very often it involves something you have passionate feelings about

so our tendency is to believe that our version of the event is correct

repeating something over and over again to just barely keep it in short term memory

if we're bad at remembering stuff we have things to help

write something down word for word

not a great way to study or recall important details for things down the road

change to IRS YMCA IBM CIA to be under miller's number

decisions about how to chunk information depend on schemas

schemas: cognitive structures that help us perceive, organize, process, and use information

schemas influence how we encode information in life

Sisero: memorize two-3 hour speeches, word for word perfectly

in roman times you needed to get accuracy, weren't allowed memory aids like a prompter

sisero: lets say he wanted to give speech about taxes, he would image he was standing he was standing in front of entry house of big house, on the door was roman seal, he used that as a method to memorize intro, hello people

imagine, opening door, stepping into entry way, talked about taxation and how to deal with roman sewer system

used mental visual cues, taking stroll through house with visual cues to remind him what to say every step of the way

example of mnemonics is method etc

categories, method of loci, chunking, acronyms

memory technique to help your brain better encode and recall important information

people find this helpful for remembering items in long lists

memory technique to help your brain better encode and recall important information.

people find this helpful for remembering items in long lists

Example: PEMDAS
Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally = Parentheses, Exponents, Multi, Division, Addison, Subtraction

Memory is enhanced by forming associations between new information and other items already in memory.

anytime you learn something new look for ways to connect it to something old, and you can enhance chances of it being stored in LTM

Consolidation occurs during storage

the more the neurons fire together the more it'll wire together

requires conscious effort and often can be verbally described

the processes we use to remember information we can say we know

example: Remembering a specific driving lesson

use explicit memory to recall what you had for dinner last night or what a specific word means

Explicit memory divided in to episodic and semantic memory

declarative memories can involve words, concepts, visual images

when you can describe knowledge in words, it is declarative

something you can say out loud

something you directly experienced

includes a person's past experiences and time and place it occurred

memories for knowledge about the world

whats 2+2? 4
who's the president? obama

includes things that are common knowledge, such as the names of colors, the sounds of letters

basic facts acquired over a lifetime.

knowledge of facts independent of personal experience

unconscious, unintentional form of memory

you aren't able to put these memories into words

you may not be able to access these when you want to

how to chop something without cutting

example: ice cream truck, attractive kids

memory for muscle movements or a series of actions like riding a bike

Example: while driving you notice you've been day dreaming and have no episodic memory of the past few minutes. You used implicit memories of how to drive and where you were going, therefore you did not crash or go in the wrong direction, this is procedural memory

stopping at a red light because thats what you're supposed to do

going home a certain route because thats what you usually do

very resistant to decay, once you learn it, you never forget it

future oriented, a person remembers to do something at some future time

example: you have a test tomorrow, you will remember

example: "tell bri to call me, okay?" or "don't forget the milk"

sometimes a retrieval cue occurs in a particular environment. example: seeing bri might automatically trigger your memory, so you effortlessly send her the message to call

sometimes particular environments do not have obvious retrieval cues for prospective memories

example: you might not have a retrieval cue for remembering to buy milk. remembering to buy milk might require ongoing remembering as you head back to car or room etc

prospective memories for events without retrieval cues is the reason sticky notes are popular. they help jog your memory so that you don't have to put an effort into remembering

we create these all the time, cognitive short cut


both groups saw same video taped car accident

after experiment completed, she divided them into test and control

test = how fast were cars going when they SMASH into each other

control = how fast were cars going when they HIT each other

brought participants back after few weeks

asked was broken glass present at scene of the accident

theres no broken glass, its a minor fender bender

but that leading question biased the particpant, it activated something called a schema:

schema: set of expectations about how something should go

we create these all the time, cognitive short cut

you have schema for what to expect for scary movies, going to store, going to bank, going to taco bell, set of expectations that is modified based off of personal experience

when they asked the leading question, they gave them access the memory and they remember how fast the cars were gong when they smashed into each other and they alter their memory

had magazine that was photo shopped

bunny was standing with mickey mouse and other characters

bunny belongs to warner brothers not disney

all you had to do was show them the image, they kept the image on the table

during experiemnt, she made sure people went to disney land

asked questions about what happened when they went to park

participants said they have shaken hands with bugs bunny at disney land

People tend to be fairly confident about their false memories

she demonstrated that memories are not 100% reliable

source monitoring / source monitoring error

when you ask leading questions, you assume that they were going fast

every time you remember something you have to figure out where it came from

an unconscious mental test that humans perform in order to determine if a memory is "real" and accurate as opposed to being from a source like a dream or a movie.

occurs when a memory derived from one source is misattributed to another source

memory errors in which a specific recalled experience is falsely attributed to be the source of a particular memory.

ex: incorrectly recalling a conversation that occurred in a dream as reality.

ex: where you have a friend who did not make it to a party, you had a great time, you and your friend talk about it, you friend believes he was at the party

might hear something from someone or a source and believe it

hard time telling if you did something or if you just thought you did something

did i turn off the stove or did i just think about it

where you're trying to figure out where your memory came from

keep thinking pack an umbrella, pack umbrella, think you pack umbrella, but you didn't

the tendency people have to view events as more predictable than they really are.

After an event, people often believe that they knew the outcome of the event before it actually happened.

The hindsight bias is often referred to as the "I-knew-it-all-along phenomenon." It involves the tendency people have to assume that they knew the outcome of an event after the outcome has already been determined.

example: after attending a baseball game, you might insist that you knew that the winning team was going to win beforehand.

have a friend who is dating someone, relationship doesn't work out they break up

say you don't need him anymore, he was always garbage

Blocking / Retrieval Failure:

Absentmindedness / encoding failure:

example: forgetting the plot of a movie

most forgetting occurs because of interference from other information

generally due to lack of attention

sit down and look at exam and you say i have no idea what this is

Example: Failing to recall the name of a person you meet on the street

Example: cant recall game of favorite song

Example: blank on the lines of a play

inattentiveness or shallow processing of events (lack of attention)

where a person shows inattentive or forgetful behavior

Example: losing your keys, forgetting a lunch date
the inattentive or shallow encoding of events

cause = failing to pay attention

Example: forgot where you put down your keys because you were also reaching to answer phone

Example: forget someones name because you were paying attention to their face not their name

The continual recurrence of unwanted memories

some unwanted memories are so traumatic that they destroy the life of the individual who suffers from them

persistence occurs often with PTSD individuals (mental health problem)

(reality monitoring and source monitoring)

occurs when people misremember the time, place, person, or circumstances involved with a memory

Example: Falsely thinking that someone is famous because their name is well known

a person will remember the information or fact but they won't be able to remember where, when, or from whom they learned it.

example source of misattribution

Changing of memories over time so that they become consistent with current beliefs or attitudes

they can be altered using suggestion

False, but plausible, information is given and, as a result, a memory is altered.

developing false memories for events that did not happen

ex: You witness an argument after school. When later asked about the "huge fight" that occurred, you recall the memory, but unknowingly distort it with exaggerated fabrications, because you now think of the event as a "huge fight" instead of a simple argument.

means backwards , looking behind you

memory loss for events that occurred before the onset of amnesia

out riding bikes, no helmet, hit head, you may not remember the actual accident itself

if you hit your head hard enough to get retrograde amnesia, you may lose memories of the day of the accident, you could recover it, but you wouldn't remember the accident itself

the consolidation process gets shut down, so the memory for the event won't be remembered

hippocampus gets damaged, cannot form new memories

after surgery, you could recover as the hippocampus comes back online

your memory system doesn't really start working until age 3 or 4

you can still consolidate memories but your stable long term storage state doesn't start weaving things in episodic narrative until ages three or 4

age 7: they expire and get replaced by new information

when you get older you could get this

sometimes when we try to consolidate a memory trace it doesn't always get consolidated

we have a memory trace that we don't use, when neurons realize we don't use it, the dendrites prune and disconnects the link to the circuits

burying distressing thought and feelings in the unconscious

idea that was championed by sigmond freud

if you have dramatic experience, according to this idea, the conscious mind does not want to access memory so it will deny access to it, you try to remember it, but your conscious mind will block that access because it wants to protect you, but this theory does not fit with modern psychology

paper that surveys sexual assault survivors

1/3 of them had no conscious memory for assault even though they reported it at a point in time

published and psychologists got hands on it

they thought they could treat people who are suffering from illness

access the trauma, confront it, and then treat it

therapist saw this article as said evidence that supports freud so they worked with clients to see if they had repressed memories, used hypnosis to put them back to certain age to see if they had sexual trauma

this resulted in a massive controversy

so many people said they were sexually abused by parents, authority people, etc

they remembered though hypnosis therapy

different FBI went in and saw that some things were creepy, someone remembered things coming from womb , sunday school sexual assault by animal (giraffe)

almost all cases had zero forensic evidence to support claims, were dismissed

distorts memories
put memory into someone who wasn't sexually abused

sexual abuse, most common form of repressed memory

one side: psychotherapists and patients claim that long-repressed memories for traumatic events can resurface during therapy

"I'm Terrified Of . "

"It is through repressed childhood memories where phobias develop, so look for the phobic reactions you harbor and most probably you will find a repressed childhood memory behind it," clinical psychologist, Dr. John Mayer, tells Bustle.

Memories are repressed because they're traumatic, he says. If you're terrified of snakes or spiders or heights without really knowing why, there just might be a repressed memory there. "The thoughts that surround repressed childhood memories manifest themselves in later life as fears," Mayer says. "For example, a typical thought might be a negative reaction to people yelling and that may stem from the repressed childhood memory of a parent who was an angry yeller." If you believe you may have a phobia that is making your life a challenge, speaking with a therapist can help uncover potential memories of trauma, as well as help you develop coping mechanisms.

Child Development Theories and Examples

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book ൕ Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do," and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Child development theories focus on explaining how children change and grow over the course of childhood. Such theories center on various aspects of development including social, emotional, and cognitive growth.

The study of human development is a rich and varied subject. We all have personal experience with development, but it is sometimes difficult to understand how and why people grow, learn, and act as they do.

Why do children behave in certain ways? Is their behavior related to their age, family relationships, or individual temperaments? Developmental psychologists strive to answer such questions as well as to understand, explain, and predict behaviors that occur throughout the lifespan.

In order to understand human development, a number of different theories of child development have arisen to explain various aspects of human growth.

5.2 Parts of the Brain Involved with Memory

  • Explain the brain functions involved in memory
  • Recognize the roles of the hippocampus, amygdala, and cerebellum

Are memories stored in just one part of the brain, or are they stored in many different parts of the brain? Karl Lashley began exploring this problem, about 100 years ago, by making lesions in the brains of animals such as rats and monkeys. He was searching for evidence of the engram : the group of neurons that serve as the “physical representation of memory” (Josselyn, 2010). First, Lashley (1950) trained rats to find their way through a maze. Then, he used the tools available at the time—in this case a soldering iron—to create lesions in the rats’ brains, specifically in the cerebral cortex. He did this because he was trying to erase the engram, or the original memory trace that the rats had of the maze.

Lashley did not find evidence of the engram, and the rats were still able to find their way through the maze, regardless of the size or location of the lesion. Based on his creation of lesions and the animals’ reaction, he formulated the equipotentiality hypothesis : if part of one area of the brain involved in memory is damaged, another part of the same area can take over that memory function (Lashley, 1950). Although Lashley’s early work did not confirm the existence of the engram, modern psychologists are making progress locating it. Eric Kandel, for example, spent decades working on the synapse, the basic structure of the brain, and its role in controlling the flow of information through neural circuits needed to store memories (Mayford, Siegelbaum, & Kandel, 2012).

Many scientists believe that the entire brain is involved with memory. However, since Lashley’s research, other scientists have been able to look more closely at the brain and memory. They have argued that memory is located in specific parts of the brain, and specific neurons can be recognized for their involvement in forming memories. The main parts of the brain involved with memory are the amygdala, the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and the prefrontal cortex (Figure 8.9).

The Amygdala

First, let’s look at the role of the amygdala in memory formation. The main job of the amygdala is to regulate emotions, such as fear and aggression (Figure 8.9). The amygdala plays a part in how memories are stored because storage is influenced by stress hormones. For example, one researcher experimented with rats and the fear response (Josselyn, 2010). Using Pavlovian conditioning, a neutral tone was paired with a foot shock to the rats. This produced a fear memory in the rats. After being conditioned, each time they heard the tone, they would freeze (a defense response in rats), indicating a memory for the impending shock. Then the researchers induced cell death in neurons in the lateral amygdala, which is the specific area of the brain responsible for fear memories. They found the fear memory faded (became extinct). Because of its role in processing emotional information, the amygdala is also involved in memory consolidation: the process of transferring new learning into long-term memory. The amygdala seems to facilitate encoding memories at a deeper level when the event is emotionally arousing.


In this TED Talk called “A Mouse. A Laser Beam. A Manipulated Memory,” Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu from MIT talk about using laser beams to manipulate fear memory in rats. Find out why their work caused a media frenzy once it was published in Science.

The Hippocampus

Another group of researchers also experimented with rats to learn how the hippocampus functions in memory processing (Figure 8.9). They created lesions in the hippocampi of the rats, and found that the rats demonstrated memory impairment on various tasks, such as object recognition and maze running. They concluded that the hippocampus is involved in memory, specifically normal recognition memory as well as spatial memory (when the memory tasks are like recall tests) (Clark, Zola, & Squire, 2000). Another job of the hippocampus is to project information to cortical regions that give memories meaning and connect them with other connected memories. It also plays a part in memory consolidation: the process of transferring new learning into long-term memory.

Injury to this area leaves us unable to process new declarative memories. One famous patient, known for years only as H. M., had both his left and right temporal lobes (hippocampi) removed in an attempt to help control the seizures he had been suffering from for years (Corkin, Amaral, González, Johnson, & Hyman, 1997). As a result, his declarative memory was significantly affected, and he could not form new semantic knowledge. He lost the ability to form new memories, yet he could still remember information and events that had occurred prior to the surgery.


For a closer look at how memory works, view this video on quirks of memory, and read more in this article about patient HM.

The Cerebellum and Prefrontal Cortex

Although the hippocampus seems to be more of a processing area for explicit memories, you could still lose it and be able to create implicit memories (procedural memory, motor learning, and classical conditioning), thanks to your cerebellum (Figure 8.9). For example, one classical conditioning experiment is to accustom subjects to blink when they are given a puff of air. When researchers damaged the cerebellums of rabbits, they discovered that the rabbits were not able to learn the conditioned eye-blink response (Steinmetz, 1999 Green & Woodruff-Pak, 2000).

Other researchers have used brain scans, including positron emission tomography (PET) scans, to learn how people process and retain information. From these studies, it seems the prefrontal cortex is involved. In one study, participants had to complete two different tasks: either looking for the letter a in words (considered a perceptual task) or categorizing a noun as either living or non-living (considered a semantic task) (Kapur et al., 1994). Participants were then asked which words they had previously seen. Recall was much better for the semantic task than for the perceptual task. According to PET scans, there was much more activation in the left inferior prefrontal cortex in the semantic task. In another study, encoding was associated with left frontal activity, while retrieval of information was associated with the right frontal region (Craik et al., 1999).


There also appear to be specific neurotransmitters involved with the process of memory, such as epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and acetylcholine (Myhrer, 2003). There continues to be discussion and debate among researchers as to which neurotransmitter plays which specific role (Blockland, 1996). Although we don’t yet know which role each neurotransmitter plays in memory, we do know that communication among neurons via neurotransmitters is critical for developing new memories. Repeated activity by neurons leads to increased neurotransmitters in the synapses and more efficient and more synaptic connections. This is how memory consolidation occurs.

It is also believed that strong emotions trigger the formation of strong memories, and weaker emotional experiences form weaker memories this is called arousal theory (Christianson, 1992). For example, strong emotional experiences can trigger the release of neurotransmitters, as well as hormones, which strengthen memory therefore, our memory for an emotional event is usually better than our memory for a non-emotional event. When humans and animals are stressed, the brain secretes more of the neurotransmitter glutamate, which helps them remember the stressful event (McGaugh, 2003). This is clearly evidenced by what is known as the flashbulb memory phenomenon.

A flashbulb memory is an exceptionally clear recollection of an important event (Figure 8.10). Where were you when you first heard about the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Most likely you can remember where you were and what you were doing. In fact, a Pew Research Center (2011) survey found that for those Americans who were age 8 or older at the time of the event, 97% can recall the moment they learned of this event, even a decade after it happened.


Inaccurate and False Memories

Even flashbulb memories can have decreased accuracy with the passage of time, even with very important events. For example, on at least three occasions, when asked how he heard about the terrorist attacks of 9/11, President George W. Bush responded inaccurately. In January 2002, less than 4 months after the attacks, the then sitting President Bush was asked how he heard about the attacks. He responded:

I was sitting there, and my Chief of Staff—well, first of all, when we walked into the classroom, I had seen this plane fly into the first building. There was a TV set on. And you know, I thought it was pilot error and I was amazed that anybody could make such a terrible mistake. (Greenberg, 2004, p. 2)

Contrary to what President Bush recalled, no one saw the first plane hit, except people on the ground near the twin towers. The first plane was not videotaped because it was a normal Tuesday morning in New York City, until the first plane hit.

Some people attributed Bush’s wrong recall of the event to conspiracy theories. However, there is a much more benign explanation: human memory, even flashbulb memories, can be frail. In fact, memory can be so frail that we can convince a person an event happened to them, even when it did not. In studies, research participants will recall hearing a word, even though they never heard the word. For example, participants were given a list of 15 sleep-related words, but the word “sleep” was not on the list. Participants recalled hearing the word “sleep” even though they did not actually hear it (Roediger & McDermott, 2000). The researchers who discovered this named the theory after themselves and a fellow researcher, calling it the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm.

The Connection Between Childhood Experiences And Adult Problems

As an adult psychiatrist, I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about childhood, and there's a good reason for this. It's become abundantly clear over the past 20-plus years of doing psychotherapy that childhood experiences are at the root of adult problems.

Every person who's walked through my office door suffering from depression, anxiety, relationship or work problems, low self-esteem or addiction has a history of some type of adversity in their childhood. It's become clear to me by listening to their stories that were it not for these painful events, the person wouldn't be struggling as much as they are, today.

When we look at a young child who's beginning to show signs of emotional disturbance or behavioural issues, what we're seeing is that something has happened to them, or something is happening, that is causing them the beginnings of a problem.

If we're to do the best for our children, we have to understand the basic emotional necessities of childhood and the types of events that are likely to cause a child difficulties, now and in the future.

Whether we're dealing with a child who seems mostly well-adjusted in the moment, or one who's begun to exhibit signs of more significant dysfunction, those of us in the helping fields want to do everything we can to optimize the child's emotional and psychological well-being so as to prevent future problems.

If we're to do the best for our children, we have to understand the basic emotional necessities of childhood and the types of events that are likely to cause a child difficulties, now and in the future.

When it comes to the necessities of childhood, we have to remember that perfect parenting is neither necessary nor possible. A child just needs, as the British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott so aptly put it, "good enough parenting."

Good enough parenting means that the child is loved and valued for who they are, not for how they behave, and the child is nurtured, cared for and protected, but not coddled. In fact, the "good enough" parent allows the child to be disappointed and frustrated at times, so that they learn to tolerate and cope with these types of experiences in adulthood.

And interestingly, "good enough parenting" also applies to the other adults in a child's life the adults who teach, guide and support the child. Each one of these adults has an important role to play in the child's development and emotional well-being.

When we think about the experiences that lead to difficulties in childhood and beyond, there are two distinct types: the absence of certain necessities or the presence of hurtful events.

Children need to feel important, but not so important that their agenda supersedes that of the parent. Overly-permissive parents who indulge their children are depriving them of the guidance and limits they need in order to develop appropriately and function optimally as adults.

Love, affirmation, guidance, protection and limits: these are the necessities of childhood. When a child is raised with all of these things, they're far more likely to grow into high-functioning adults with good confidence and self worth, who have constructive coping strategies in difficult times.

When we think about the experiences that lead to difficulties in childhood and beyond, there are two distinct types: the absence of certain necessities or the presence of hurtful events.

If a child is neglected if they're not praised enough -- perhaps from a parent's misguided notion that this will give them a "swelled head" -- or if they're not encouraged to do things, the child will grow up with a lack of confidence and self-worth.

Children take things personally, so what they experience informs their identity.

If part of the neglect includes a lack of protection from hurtful experiences, the child will grow up feeling helpless, worthless -- because they'll start to see themselves as not entitled to protection -- and perhaps even deserving of harm. Children take things personally, so what they experience informs their identity. Love them, and they feel good about themselves neglect them, and they feel bad.

In terms of adverse events that happen to a child, these experiences can take many forms: a child can be emotionally hurt or abused through harsh criticism, shaming, blaming or the instilling of guilt they can be physically assaulted via overly harsh corporal punishment or beatings with fists, belts or other objects, or they can be sexually abused.

The child can have an overly-controlling or perfectionist parent a narcissistic parent who expects the child to excel so that the parent can feel good about themselves, or a parent who competes with their child because they're threatened by the child's youth and promise.

A child can be picked on, bullied, made fun of or taken advantage of. They can be ostracized and isolated by those around them, and made to feel worthless and useless.

These experiences can occur at home, at school, during extra-curricular activities or in play-time. Parents, siblings, relatives, friends, teachers, coaches, even members of the clergy can be responsible for hurting a child. Sometimes, more than one person is doing so, which of course adds to the child's current and future emotional difficulties.

There's another, more subtle way a child can be hurt, and this is when one or both parents make the child responsible for tasks that they're too young to manage. This makes the child feel incompetent and inadequate and often filled with shame for "failing" at tasks that developmentally, they're not expected to know how to accomplish.

These types of tasks can include being made to care for younger siblings or managing the household at a very young age being put in the role of parental confidante being thrust into the position of mediator between fighting parents being responsible for the family's finances, or being pressured to perform at school, in their hobbies (for example, performing arts, spelling bees or math competitions) or in individual or team sports at a level that is beyond them, or not what they themselves want to do.

Sometimes, it's not the parents who expect too much from a child it can be a teacher, a coach or anyone else who is pushing a child beyond the limits of their ability. There's a fine line between encouraging a child to do their best and making a child feel oppressed by adult expectations. Encouragement and support will most likely bring out the best in a child, but pushing them too hard could cause them to have emotional problems.

If we want to protect our children from harm and prevent current and future difficulties, we need to be aware of the ways in which a child's self-confidence, self-worth, sense of optimism and ability to function can be compromised.

Some hurtful experiences come from other types of family stressors for example, when one of the parents or a sibling becomes ill or dies when one or both parents are very young and ill-equipped to handle being a parent when a parent is suffering from mental illness and their symptoms are expressed in bizarre or unpredictable behaviour toward their children when parents are dealing with other difficulties such as work stress, financial problems, crises in the extended family, serious addictions or a troubled marriage.

All of the above are experiences which will have a negative impact on a developing child. If we want to protect our children from harm and prevent current and future difficulties, we need to be aware of the ways in which a child's self-confidence, self-worth, sense of optimism and ability to function can be compromised.

When we see signs of dysfunction or disturbance in a young child, such as excessive anger, sleep refusal, acting out, defiance, compulsive behaviours, destructive behaviour toward themselves or others, truancy, school failure, agitation or moodiness, we need to search carefully for the roots of this behaviour and as much as possible, address the problem immediately, so as to improve things for the child, now and for the future.

Sign up here for my free monthly wellness newsletter. March is all about the problem with permissiveness and over-entitlement at home, school and work.

Personality Development

Personality Development

Central to Rogers' personality theory is the notion of self or self-concept. This is defined as "the organized, consistent set of perceptions and beliefs about oneself."

The self is the humanistic term for who we really are as a person. The self is our inner personality, and can be likened to the soul, or Freud's psyche. The self is influenced by the experiences a person has in their life, and out interpretations of those experiences. Two primary sources that influence our self-concept are childhood experiences and evaluation by others.

According to Rogers (1959), we want to feel, experience and behave in ways which are consistent with our self-image and which reflect what we would like to be like, our ideal-self. The closer our self-image and ideal-self are to each other, the more consistent or congruent we are and the higher our sense of self-worth.

A person is said to be in a state of incongruence if some of the totality of their experience is unacceptable to them and is denied or distorted in the self-image.

The humanistic approach states that the self is composed of concepts unique to ourselves. The self-concept includes three components:


Self-worth (or self-esteem) comprises what we think about ourselves. Rogers believed feelings of self-worth developed in early childhood and were formed from the interaction of the child with the mother and father.


How we see ourselves, which is important to good psychological health. Self-image includes the influence of our body image on inner personality.

At a simple level, we might perceive ourselves as a good or bad person, beautiful or ugly. Self-image affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves in the world.


This is the person who we would like to be. It consists of our goals and ambitions in life, and is dynamic – i.e., forever changing.

The ideal self in childhood is not the ideal self in our teens or late twenties etc.

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But then, this event- or story-based memory isn’t the only kind, although it’s the one people typically focus on when discussing “first” memories. Indeed, when I asked the developmental psychologist Steven Reznick about why childhood amnesia exists, he disputed the very use of that term: “I would say right now that is a rather archaic statement.” A professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Reznick explained that shortly after birth, infants can start forming impressions of faces and react when they see those faces again this is recognition memory. The ability to understand words and learn language relies on working memory, which kicks in at around six months old. More sophisticated forms of memory develop in the child’s second year, as semantic memory allows children to retain understanding of concepts and general knowledge about the world.

“When people were accusing infants of having amnesia, what they were talking about is what we refer to as episodic memory,” Reznick explained. Our ability to remember events that happened to us relies on more complicated mental infrastructure than other kinds of memory. Context is all-important. We need to understand the concepts that give meaning to an event: For the memory of my brother’s birth, I have to understand the meanings of concepts like “hospital,” “brother,” “cot,” and even Thomas the Tank Engine. More than that, for the memory to remain accessible, my younger self had to remember those concepts in the same language-based way that my adult self remembers information. I formed earlier memories using more rudimentary, pre-verbal means, and that made those memories unreachable as the acquisition of language reshaped how my mind works, as it does for everyone.

So what do we leave behind as our earliest memories fade? In my case, I lost an entire country. My family emigrated from England in June 1991, meaning I have no memories of Chester, my birthplace. I grew up knowing England through imported foods and TV shows, through my parents’ accents and idioms I knew England as a culture, but not as a place, as a homeland.

My parents spoke little of Chester, both because it was just somewhere they moved to after deciding to have children—their young adulthood was spent in the more cosmopolitan Manchester—and because they felt the immigrant’s drive to assimilate. After we moved to the Northeast United States, my still very English-sounding father found a new standard answer to the question of where he came from: “New Jersey. Can’t you tell from my accent?”

To see how well my first memory held up, I called my dad to verify the details. I was worried I had invented the detail of my mom’s parents being there, but he confirmed they had flown over from England for the occasion. He said my brother was born in the early evening, not at night, but considering the U.S. Naval Observatory says sunset in Highland Park that day was at 4:31 p.m., we could both be right. He confirmed my brother’s cot and the television, but he disputed one vital detail, phrasing it with the wary precision of a former doctor: “I won’t say with any confidence that Thomas the Tank Engine was on the TV.” Still, we agreed that if there was anything about the day that a 3-year-old would be more likely to remember than the father of a newborn son, it would be that.

The randomness of that detail makes me think it’s more plausible, if only because it would be such a bizarre thing to add in years after the fact. False memories do exist, but their construction appears to begin much later in life. A study by Peterson presented young children with fictitious events to see if they could be misled into remembering these non-existent events, yet the children almost universally avoided the bait. As for why older children and adults begin to fill in gaps in their memories with invented details, she pointed out that memory is a fundamentally constructive activity: We use it to build understanding of the world, and that sometimes requires more complete narratives than our memories can recall by themselves.

And, as people get older, it becomes easier to conflate actual memories with other stimuli. Reznick told me of a distinct memory he has of riding in a toy wagon and tractor with his sister. The problem is that he doesn’t so much remember doing it as he remembers seeing himself do it, and he discovered why when he came across an old photograph of him and his sister riding in that very same wagon and tractor on the sidewalk outside their childhood house. He had forgotten having seen the photograph before but had remembered what it depicted, and the latter over time became its own memory.

As he spoke, I thought of my only memory that might predate my brother’s birth. There’s a vague image in my head of my pint-sized self sitting between my parents on the plane ride to America. My dad confirmed the scant details I could provide were accurate, but the problem is one of vantage point. This isn’t a first-person memory like my trip to Highland Park Hospital, but rather a mental snapshot taken—or, more likely, constructed—of the three of us from the perspective of the plane aisle. Besides, a crucial detail is wrong: My “memory” forgets the fact that my mom would have been four months pregnant at the time. My dad assured me she was already showing by then, even if my mom would have strenuously denied that if asked. Perhaps my memory was just being exceedingly polite.

But even as the stories people tell about themselves reshape their memories, so too can memories—even the ones they’ve long forgotten—shape them. In 2012, while visiting my now college-age brother during his semester spent studying in London, I traveled to the west of England to see my birthplace for the first time. The first time I could remember, anyway. I had to change trains at the station in Crewe, a town that only meant anything to me because it was mentioned on, yes, Thomas the Tank Engine, as a place where engines were constructed or rebuilt—not unlike memories, I suppose.

I was in Chester for less than a day, but there was something ineffably right about that little city. The feeling was elusive, yet unmistakable: I was home.

Was my brain simply attaching outsize importance to Chester because my adult self knew its significance, or could these feelings be triggered by genuine, pre-episodic memories? Reznick says it could be the latter: “I think what could endure is what’s called recognition memory.”

He explained that recognition memory is our most pervasive system, and that associations with my hometown I formed as an infant could well have endured more than 20 years later, however vaguely.

When people in Chester asked me what I, a lone American, was doing in their small English city, I responded, “Actually, I’m from here.” It was the first time in my life that it felt entirely accurate to say that, with no need for qualifications or caveats. I honestly can’t remember if I ever followed that up with a mock-quizzical, “Can’t you tell from my accent?” But give me enough time, and I’m sure that detail will be added to my memory. It’s just too perfect a story.

The types of amnesia

To understand how we remember things, it's incredibly helpful to study how we forget—which is why neuroscientists study amnesia, the loss of memories or the ability to learn. Amnesia is usually the result of some kind of trauma to the brain, such as a head injury, a stroke, a brain tumor, or chronic alcoholism.

There are two main types of amnesia. The first, retrograde amnesia, occurs where you forget things you knew before the brain trauma. Anterograde amnesia is when brain trauma curtails or stops someone's ability to form new memories.

The most famous case study of anterograde amnesia is Henry Molaison, who in 1953 had parts of his brain removed as a last-ditch treatment for severe seizures. While Molaison—known when he was alive as H.M.—remembered much of his childhood, he was unable to form new declarative memories. People who worked with him for decades had to re-introduce themselves with every visit.

By studying people such as H.M., as well as animals with different types of brain damage, scientists can trace where and how different kinds of memories form in the brain. It seems that short-term and long-term memories don't form in exactly the same way, nor do declarative and procedural memories.

There's no one place within the brain that holds all of your memories different areas of the brain form and store different kinds of memories, and different processes may be at play for each. For instance, emotional responses such as fear reside in a brain region called the amygdala. Memories of the skills you've learned are associated with a different region called the striatum. A region called the hippocampus is crucial for forming, retaining, and recalling declarative memories. The temporal lobes, the brain regions that H.M. was partially missing, play a crucial role in forming and recalling memories.

Watch the video: Light and Shadows. Types of Light. How are Shadows formed. Video for Kids (January 2022).