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Schmideberg, M. (1950). Infant Memories and Constructions. Psychoanal Q., 19:468-481.

(1950). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 19:468-481

Infant Memories and Constructions

Melitta Schmideberg, M.D.

Memories dating to the third or fourth year, and even occasionally to the second year, are generally given credence; but there is widespread skepticism regarding those attributed to the first year. Is this justifiable scientific caution because of the difficulty of verification, or merely prejudice? How can we decide whether something supposedly remembered really occurred?

Analysts have not yet established scientific criteria for measuring the accuracy of memories, and we must fall back on popular tests. These are neither very definite nor very exact. We are inclined to regard as 'true memories' those which are brought forward with a strong subjective conviction and which impress others as plausible (i.e., mostly similar to our own); this is even more the case when they are confirmed by independent observers, in practice usually the parents. None of these criteria are reliable. Subjective conviction may have emotional as well as objective sources; the subject may believe he is remembering an experience when, in fact, he has merely been told of it by others or simply imagined it—while on the other hand he may doubt or reject his true recollections.

Confirmation by adults presupposes that adult and childhood recollections coincide. However, as the child's, and to an even greater extent the infant's, sense of value differs from that of the adult, much that appears important to the one possesses no interest for the other. They may envisage the same happening from very different aspects. Adults usually remember only what they regard as an outstanding event in their own or their children's lives (illnesses, changing residence, etc.), while they may not even have noticed what has most impressed their children.

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