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Six-Month-Old Infants Can Remember Actions For 24 Hours, Research Shows

Wed., Oct. 29, 1997, midnight

Baby see. Baby remember.

Infants as young as 6 months can not only imitate actions, but remember them 24 hours later - provided the circumstances are exactly the same as they were a day earlier, according to a study.

Using hand puppets and toys, researchers at the University of Otago in New Zealand were able to induce 6-, 12- and 18-month-old babies to mimic actions they had seen a day earlier, according to a study reported Tuesday at a meeting in New Orleans of the Society for Neuroscience.

Although previous research has found that babies as young as 6 weeks can imitate facial expressions or copy simple tasks, the new results show that infants as young as 6 months old are also capable of remembering and imitating specific actions a day after the original behavior.

“Babies rapidly glean and process information about the world, long before they can tell us what they know,” said Harlene Hayne, one of the authors of the study.

The youngest age at which scientists had previously demonstrated deferred imitation in infants was 9 months, said Andrew Meltzoff, who pioneered infant memory studies at the University of Washington.

One of the reasons adults are unable to recall memories from their infancy may be that there is no way to duplicate the situations and surroundings, Hayne said.

“We lack the keys that are required to unlock these early memories,” she added.

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