When it comes to remembering selective things, nothing can beat what babies can do. Scientists have discovered that babies can only memorise the good times.
Parents who spend their time playing with and talking to their five-month-old baby may wonder whether their child remembers any of it a day later. According to a new study by Brigham Young University, said to be the first to study the emotions influencing memory, shows that babies are more likely to remember something if there is a positive emotion, or affect that accompanies it.
For the study, the researchers monitored the infants' eye movements and how long they look at a test image. The babies were set in front of a flat paneled monitor in a closed off partition and then exposed to a person on screen speaking to them with either a happy, neutral or angry voice. Immediately following the emotional exposure, they were shown a geometric shape.
To test their memory, a follow-up test was done 5 minutes later and again one day later. In the follow-up test, babies were shown two side-by-side geometric shapes: a brand new one, and the original one from the study.
The researchers then were able to record how many times the baby looked from one image to the next and how long they spent looking at each image. Babies' memories didn't improve if the shape had been paired with a negative voice, but they performed significantly better at remembering shapes attached to positive voices.
Lead author of the study professor Ross Flom said what may have happened was that the positive affect heightened the babies' attentional system and arousal. By heightening those systems, their ability to process and perhaps remember the geometric pattern was heightened.
The study is published in Infant Behavior and Development.