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We do not remember anything from the first two / three years of our life: why?

25 April 2022

Remembering means that some image comes to our mind, visual or acoustic as well as words.

Remembering also means recognizing some other known sensory form: a particular sound, a smell, a taste, a bodily sensation - in any case something that we have "perceived".

We recall that "perception" is a term that in current language is often used in a generic and improper way, such as intuition or understanding, but in the scientific language of psychology it indicates -as its etymology suggests (per-capio)- a precise mental process that produces a clear consciousness effect.

A newborn does not perceive as an adult

He will learn it gradually. A newborn, or a few months or even one or two years old baby, has not yet learned to perceive well. Perception is not a photography, but neither is it the automatic result of what our sensors scattered throughout the body send directly to the brain. The brain must organize the myriads of bioelectric impulses received at every instant from all the sensors, in order to compose an image that means that it has perceived something, and must gradually learn this work of assembly.

A newborn does not perceive how it will perceive at three months, and at three-month-old does not perceive how it will perceive at six, and neither does he perceive how he will perceive at one year, and again, at two, maybe three.

Remembering therefore means coming to mind something that we have perceived: but what we perceived in the early days of our life, when the brain has not yet learned to organize the bioelectrical information of its sensors well, does not have the appearance of a perception of an adult type, as it could be if it were perceived at an older age in an effective "memory".

Instead, it is something shapeless, disordered, confused, which cannot be represented, or rather "configured" into something that has a meaning and therefore can be recognizable: it will be more like disordered impressions of dreams. Therefore it cannot be remembered, but some trace of it will remain in the brain, which can then manifest itself in affective behaviors.

Remembering is operated by the brain

And in any case, it should be borne in mind that “the remembering” is not the same thing that is in the “memory”, that is in the brain, but only an operation that the brain, depending on its general functioning at that moment, decides to produce inside our mind. The brain is not an archive of films, but the enormous intrigue (if we see it microscopically) of the myriads of its bioelectrical connections: the synapses or the connectome, a term introduced by Sebastian Seung to indicate the set of neural connections (Sebastian Seung " Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are ", 2012).

Further Readings

See All Published Works Index, specifically n. 378 chapters 1, 2 and 5; n. 377 chapters 1, 2, 3, 7; n.375 chapters 1and 8; paper n. 372