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Babies remember nothing but a good time, study says

Date:
November 24, 2014
Source:
Brigham Young University
Summary:
Researchers performed memory tests with 5-month-old babies, and found that the babies better remembered shapes that were introduced with happy voices and faces. Past studies have shown that babies are very tuned to emotions, including the emotions of animals.
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“We think what happens is that the positive affect heightens the babies’ attentional system and arousal,” Flom said. “By heightening those systems, we heighten their ability to process and perhaps remember this geometric pattern.”
Credit: Image courtesy of Brigham Young University

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.

Thanks to a new BYU study, we now know that they at least remember the good times.

The study, published in Infant Behavior and Development, shows that babies are more likely to remember something if there is a positive emotion, or affect, that accompanies it.

"People study memory in infants, they study discrimination in emotional affect, but we are the first ones to study how these emotions influence memory," said BYU psychology professor Ross Flom, lead author of the study.

Although the five-month-olds can't talk, there are a number of different ways that researchers can analyze how the babies respond to testing treatments. In this particular study, they 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, the researchers did follow-up tests 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.

"We think what happens is that the positive affect heightens the babies' attentional system and arousal," Flom said. "By heightening those systems, we heighten their ability to process and perhaps remember this geometric pattern."

This paper was co-authored with Professor Brock Kirwan as well undergraduate and masters students Rebecca B. Janis and Darren J. Garcia. It follows a string of Flom's significant research on infants' ability to understand each others' moods, the moods of dogs, monkeys, and classical music.


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Brigham Young University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ross Flom, Rebecca B. Janis, Darren J. Garcia, C. Brock Kirwan. The effects of exposure to dynamic expressions of affect on 5-month-olds’ memory. Infant Behavior and Development, 2014; 37 (4): 752 DOI: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.09.006

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Brigham Young University. "Babies remember nothing but a good time, study says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 November 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141124143608.htm>.
Brigham Young University. (2014, November 24). Babies remember nothing but a good time, study says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 31, 2016 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141124143608.htm
Brigham Young University. "Babies remember nothing but a good time, study says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141124143608.htm (accessed August 31, 2016).