Immanuel Zion Argument Paper #212/14/17Professor: Thomas Cain Memory, is complex system of recognition , allowing us to process and recall information in the world around us. As adults, we often take memory for granted, assuming it is a system that exists for us constantly. When we think back to our infancy , we tend not to remember our thoughts, concerns, or past experiences. We assume a state of amnesia, until one day, we are suddenly aware of our surroundings, feelings and thoughts. For many years the processes of gaining awareness of our memory was assumed to follow this pattern, Amnesia followed by sudden awareness. However, recent research into the processes of infant memory, seems to question this original belief.
In the paper, The Development of Infant memory psychologist Carolyn Rovee Collier, investigated the processes of infant memory as it compares to adults, and questioned the validity of the previously assumed idea of ‘infantile Amnesia’. ( Rovee-Collier, 1999)The central argument of Colliers paper is that Infants actually share the same core memory structures as adults. Contrary to Freudian and Piagetian theories which postulated that infant memory, did not develop until after 1 year of life, Colliers research revealed that infants as young as 2 months showed limited but present forms of recognition based memories ( Rovee-Collier, 1999).
Colliers, designed an experiment testing recognition abilities of infants in two non verbal memory task; the “mobile ”, and “the ribbon task”. ( Rovee-Collier, 1999)In the first task, a infant recognized of the ribbon, and would kick at the ribbon. Collier assumed that more the infant kicked at either the Ribbon or Mobile the faster the infant recognized the stimulus and indeed ‘remembered it’. The overall results of Collier study Indicate that infants do indeed possess some form of memory processing. Overall Colliers paper, did a thorough job creating an age appropriate methodology for testing the memory of Infants.
That being said Colliers analysis, and explanations about the processes of infant memory along with what constitutes ‘memory structures’ could have benefited, from more depth explanations and definitions of what memory is, in the context of our understanding of the human brain. The following paper, serves to critique Colliers paper arguing that Colliers paper could have benefited from further analysis in two main areas : Firstly, the paper could have benefited from a summary of what defines ‘ memory structures’, defining them clearly to the reader before describing how these structures manifest in infants. Colliers paper seems to assume that the reader is already familiar with memory as psychological phenomena, and didn’t really provide overview of how memory works in general. Secondly Colliers the paper could have provided more in depth look into different forms of infant memory besides long recognition based memories, such as working memory, which to this day has not been studied in depth in infants. Addressing this need for further clarity in defining memory , it might have been useful to provide an overview of the different forms of memory presented in Colliers text; This need for further clarity comes across when Collier discusses the role of declarative, and nondeclarative memories.
In the section of Colliers paper entitled Development of multiple memory systems, Collier presents the idea that memory processing is “ Mediated by two memory systems, declarative and nondeclarative. (Rovee-Collier, 1999) In terms of infant memory processing, Collier illustrates the systems of non declarative and declarative memory, are present during infanthood, despite the original assumption that these systems come after the first year of life. Despite the important discovery Collier makes illustrating that memory systems are present during early infancy, this section of the paper, could have used more in depth information on the definitions and differences between declarative and nondeclarative memory, as memory systems in themselves. By definition, Declarative and Nondeclarative memory systems can be defined a set of long term memory systems. Declarative memory references explicit or conscious memories while nondeclarative memory refers to implicit or ‘nonconscious’ accessible memory.If this paper where to be revisited it might be helpful to incorporate these general definitions, allowing for further clarity on the behalf of the reader.
In addition to providing more depth on this particular distinction between declarative and nondeclarative memory, Colliers paper could have benefited from a descriptions of different forms of memory structures besides just declarative and non declarative memory. As stated earlier, and in Colliers paper, non declarative and declarative memories fall into the category of ‘long term memory structures’. ( Rovee-Collier, 1999).The majority of Colliers paper, addresses infant long term memory processing, but not forms of short term memory processes of memory such as working memory. Working memory is a form of memory processing, involving the short term storage of information, and then the ‘manipulation’ of the briefly stored information. In other words working memory is a memory processing system, with a very limited capacity, responsible for temporarily holding and manipulating that information.
(Baddeley & Hitch, 1974) Based on the work of Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch their are considered to be two forms of working memory processing one being verbal and the other being non verbal. It is believed that verbal working memory is processed via a, “phonological loop” ( the phenomena of actually hearing a series of word or numbers in ones head), and nonverbal working memory is processed via a “visual spatial” sketchpad. (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974) Now given that infants are early in their development, and Working memory is a complex system, it makes sense that Colliers study addressed a more simplified approach on establishing a baseline infant recognition involving long term memory retrieval. However, that being said, the question of how working memory manifests in early infancy ( if it does at all) would have been an intriguing component for potential study.
As Colliers illustrates in her paper, much of the issues involving the testing of infant memory processing systems in infants has been “ methodological”. (Rovee-Collier, 1999 ) Given that infants (especially those less than 1 year old) , cannot speak it is difficult to administer a procedure that adequately reflects infant memory processing. In terms of working memory, it would be difficult to administer a test that got around this language barrier, and testing for the presence of a ‘phonological’ loop would be very difficult . That being said, their might be methods, that involve non verbal participation in a working memory task. As seen by the results of Colliers study Infants do have the ability to encode long term ‘ term nonverbal memories’ and interpret nonverbal cues. Based on this this ability to recognize information when presented ‘nonverbally’ it would not be an unrealistic assumption that some forms of nonverbal working memory are also in place and can be tested, perhaps in some early form of a ‘visual spatial sketchpad.
If this study where to revisited, pehraphs and additional study could investigate visual spatial working memory, using the same ‘stimulus items ( mobile and ribbon), but this time, design the task so that the infant had locate the item after it was hidden, tapping into working memory processes rather than purley ‘recognition based’ memory. In sum, Colliers paper, succeeded, in providing a innovative notion that infants, may have early forms of memory structures previously thought to develop later in childhood and Adulthood. However, Colliers pape could have benefited from additional background information about memory structures. Colliers paper seemed to assume that the reader had a prerequisite understanding about the basics of memory processing, specifically the processes and distinctions between “declarative” and “nondeclarative memories” .
If the paper where to revisited, it might be helpful to include some sort of an introduction to the various forms memory specifically addressing the differences between “declarative and nondeclarative memories”, as well as defining terms such as “encoding”, and “recognition” in clearer terms. Addressing the second argument, Colliers paper seemed to focus just on one form of infant memory, which was long term declarative and nondeclarative memories. If this paper where to be revisited it might be helpful, explore additional types of memory processing, potentially examining infant working memory, a process, still not fully understood to this day