Some new research shows that babies may be having conscious thoughts an memories as early as five months old.
I wonder, though, what kind of memories those would be. Our experience with life and the way we interpret things we see is colored so much by our past experiences, that it’s hard to imagine how we would see things if we had no past experiences at all.
If you could recall something that happened to you at five months old, would that really be the same memory, or would it be more a ‘memory of a memory’, now seen through a haze of all the things you’ve seen and done throughout your life.
Our memories, like us, must be constantly in flux–changing and evolving with our new ways of looking at them. Certain parts are amplified as they become more meaningful, and others are forgotten.
One of my earliest memories is of reading through the instruction booklet for Mario Brothers as my dad set up the NES he just bought. I would have been about five years old, since the Nintendo came out in 1987. I remember reading about the fire-flower and thinking, if I got that I’d be unstoppable, it would be too easy!
But, after telling this memory to people a few times, has it become diluted or magnified? Am I now remembering the story that I told instead of the actual memory? I remember ‘reading’ the booklet, but could I actually read at the time? New thoughts and emotions that I’ve gained in relation to that game over the years are now laid over this memory, feelings of nostalgia and happy times. But those feelings couldn’t have originally been a part of that memory, because I’d never played the game before. The memory has changed with me over the years.
A memory recorded at five months must be even more malleable. Maybe so much so that we don’t even remember them as memories, but as gut feelings toward things, or instincts. Maybe I don’t like the look of someone’s face because he looks similar to someone who yelled at me as a baby, a memory that has long since dissolved into my psyche, but still leaves its mark. Maybe a smell that I like or dislike is associated with some other long gone memory, the tracks of which still shape my emotions and reactions.
I’ve always thought that we are more shaped by what we’ve seen and done than by our genetics. And if memories are actually being recorded in some fashion as young as five months, I think this makes it even more clear that who we are is formed by our experiences, and not our flesh and blood.
All the more reason to be good to people, to help shape their life with happy experiences and nice memories.