Magic Memories: Young Children’s Verbal Recall After a 6-Year Delay


  • This research was supported by Marsden Grants from the Royal Society of New Zealand to Harlene Hayne. Preparation of this manuscript was supported by a New Zealand Science & Technology Postdoctoral Fellowship to Fiona Jack. We thank Debbie McLachlan, Karen Tustin, Nicola Davis, Julien Gross, and Celia Wright for their help with data collection and coding, Elaine Reese for her insightful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript, and all of the children and parents who participated in this research.

concerning this article should be addressed to Harlene Hayne, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. Electronic mail may be sent to


This report describes the first prospective study specifically designed to assess children’s verbal memory for a unique event 6 years after it occurred. Forty-six 27- to 51-month-old children took part in a unique event and were interviewed about it twice, after 24-hr and 6-year delays. During the 6-year interview, 9 children verbally recalled the event, including 2 who were under 3 years old when the event occurred. This may be the most convincing evidence to date that such early experiences can be verbally recalled after long delays. These data have important implications for current theories of memory development and childhood amnesia and underscore some of the problems associated with evaluating the veracity of early memories under less controlled conditions.