To have and to hold: Episodic memory in 3- and 4-year-old children

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Abstract

Episodic memory endows us with the ability to reflect on our past and plan for our future. Most theorists argue that episodic memory emerges during the preschool period and that its emergence might herald the end of childhood amnesia. Here, we show that both 3- and 4-year-old children form episodic memories, but that 3-year-old children fail to retain those memories following a delay (Experiments 1 and 2). In contrast, 4-year-old children retained episodic memories over delays of 24 hr (Experiment 1) and 1 week (Experiment 3). This marked change in the retention of episodic memories between 3 and 4 years of age suggests that it is our ability to retain, rather than to form, an episodic memory that limits our ability to recall episodes from early childhood. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 55: 125–132, 2013

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