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Ontological Development of Memory, Cognition and Language

 

The aim is to study the ontogenetic development of Autobiographical Memory in relation to the development of cultural and linguistic concepts of time and event segmentation. For adults and older children, past mental time travel rarely goes below age 3. This lack of memories from age 0 to 3 is known as infantile amnesia for which many hypotheses but no satisfactory explanations have been provided. Infantile amnesia is an enigma because infants younger than 3 years are clearly capable of remembering events2. Why do they not have access to these memories later in life? Recent findings suggest that an ability to segment the stream of experiences into stable event representations may be crucial for the offset of infantile amnesia, because the earliest memories adults report are in the form of event fragments rather the entire events3. However, only few studies have been conducted on event segmentation in infants. We study the development of event segmentation in infancy through the violation-of-expectation paradigm in which we have much expertise (Krøjgaard 2003, 2007). We begin with the ability to single out and track distinct objects through space and time, followed by increasingly more complex staged events as the child matures. Top-of-the-line eye tracking equipment allows us to measure to which details infants attend and contrast this with similar data from older children. We combine this with studies on the acquisition of linguistic markers for the conceptual understanding of past and future, concept formation and word memory. We follow up with studies on memory for staged events, in which we will use behavioral methods as well as EEG. This work is conducted in collaboration with Kim Plunkett, Oxford University.

The life story is a milestone in AM development and an important structure underlying adults’ subjective time span. Our group has shown that the ability to tell a life story only develops in adolescence (Bohn & Berntsen, 2008). We pursue this important finding by examining the development of life story skills as a function of cultural life scripts, temporal knowledge, linguistic and narrative skills. Previous research has shown an increasing ability to remember and narrate past events over the preschool years, whereas future mental time travel has been little studied. Under the assumption that future and past mental time travel derives from the same memory system, we expect the ability to construct representations of future events to follow the same developmental pattern as memories for the past. We expect the acquisition of cultural life scripts to be a precondition for mental time travel into the more distant future and past as well as for the ability to tell a life story. These skills are all expected to develop in parallel over middle to late childhood and adolescence. We study these assumptions through previously established narration methods supplemented by interviews, word cuing and experimental procedures accommodated to these young populations.


PEOPLE:

Name   E-mail   

Phone 

         
Bohn, Ocke-Schwen   engosb@hum.au.dk   8716 2642 
Kingo, Osman Skjold   osman@psy.au.dk   8716 5862
Krøjgaard, Peter   peter@psy.au.dk   8716 5861 
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Revised 7-5-2012