Psychological Science 2017, 40(6) 1377-1384 DOI:     ISSN: 0412-1961 CN: 21-1139/TG

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Keywords
autobiographical memory
childhood amnesia
earliest memory
early memories
culture and self
Authors
LIU Xiao-Shi
LI Xiu-Jun
ZHU Zhang-Zheng
CAO Zhong-Beng
LI Dan
PubMed
Article by Liu,X.S
Article by Li,X.J
Article by Zhu,Z.Z
Article by Cao,Z.B
Article by Li,d

Relationship between the characteristics of earliest memory and the number of early memories in Chinese cultural context

Abstract

Childhood amnesia refers to the difficulty that adults experience in recalling events from their infancy and early childhood. Some researchers argued that in order to better understand childhood amnesia, we should not only ask participants to recall their earliest memory, but also examine the accessibility of a range of memories from the early phases in our lives (Nelson & Fivush, 2004). Peterson, Wang and Hou (2009) found that children with earlier first memories were better able to retrieve more childhood memories overall. However, they only focused on the relationship between the age of earliest memory and the number of early memories, therefore, the finding need to be replicated and extended. To address this deficiency, we investigated childhood recollections in school children in Chinese cultural context. Based on the previous research (Liu & Cao,2014), the main purpose of the present study is to explore whether the age at earliest memory and other characteristics of earliest memory are associated with the number of early memories children can retrieve. Sixty Chinese only children (age 9 and age 13) completed a memory fluency task which examined the accessibility of early memories and elicited early memories. The detailed procedures of interview are as follows. 1) The instructions given to participants emphasized that the memories reported should be a specific memory and be able to be remembered. 2) Participants were given four minutes to recall as many memories as possible from their early years before they went to school. 3) Participants were requested to report their earliest memory after having three minutes of recollection. They were also requested to give a best estimate of their age of the earliest memory. 4) Free recall was followed by ed recall. Participants were asked (a) Who was present? (b) Who left the deepest impression in the earliest memory? (c) Please describe him/her in as much detail as possible in the earliest memory (ed recall). 5) The Adjective Check List was administered. This check list consists of the moral emotion words and the basic emotion words (Liu & Cao,2014). Participants choose the adjective words (e.g., happy, sad, guilty, envious) that they feel at the time of the event. Interviews were transcribed verbatim onto paper. Coding methods were mainly based on the previous study (Peterson, Wang, & Hou, 2009; Wang, 2004). Data were coded for inclusion of volume, autonomous orientation, and interaction scenario. It is worth mentioning that these variables were coded separately based on free recall and ed recall. In addition, the number of others and emotion terms were recorded. People who were present in the earliest memory were coded as mother, father, grandmother/grandfather, other relatives, peer, others and no others. The adjective words selected by the participants from the Adjective Check List were coded as moral or basic emotions. The research results are as follows: 1) Compared to previous researches on Western sample, the cultural characteristic of collectivism tended to be influential for Chinese children. Results showed that Chinese children are more likely to involve other people in their earliest memory, especially their parents. 2) Correlational and regression analyses showed that children’s age at earliest memory, memory volume (ed recall), interaction scenario (ed recall), and moral emotion are associated with the number of early memories. Specifically, memory volume (ed recall) was the best predictor of the number of early memories. The results are discussed in terms of sociocultural influences on memory. Asking participants to describe other people in as much detail as possible in the earliest memory (ed recall) is a more effective way of assessing Chinese children’ autobiographical memory characteristics, especially for those from a collectivistic cultural background. The relationships between the characteristics of earliest memory and the number of early memories suggest similar underlying processes at work when children retrieve childhood memories.

Keywords autobiographical memory   childhood amnesia   earliest memory   early memories   culture and self  
Received 2017-02-08 Revised 2017-08-31 Online: 2017-11-20 
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