Eyewitness Memory and Infantile Amnesia in Children

Lay Summary 

My research focuses on child memory, especially children’s eyewitness memory for stressful events and their ability to recall events from their very early life, i.e., infantile amnesia. With children often testifying in court, the nature of early child memory is an important issue, and this research will not only advance knowledge in my field but be useful for those working with children in forensic capacities (e.g., courts, police, & lawyers). For several years, I have taken advantage of naturally occurring stressful experiences, namely injuries serious enough to require hospital ER treatment, to investigate eyewitness memory about stressful events in children. Recently I have also begun studying children's earliest memories.

Research in Eyewitness Memory:
Researchers have consistently found considerable individual variation in children's memory for injury and the proposed research will explored some potential factors that contribute to explanations of such variation, such as emotional, language, and cognitive factors. Also, how children are interviewed has remained a key issue; I plan to explore different methods that focus on encouraging young children to provide more elaborative information in open-ended recall. Such research will improve techniques in the method of questioning children used by law enforcement officers.

Research in Infantile Amnesia:
Although there has been considerable research on infantile amnesia in adults, this phenomenon in children has mostly been ignored. Little research has explored children's memory for their early years, and individual differences are rife. What factors influence this variation? I intend to explore a number of them, including age, gender, culture, social, and cognitive factors. The fact that preschool-aged children can recall and talk about experiences but lose access to these memories as they get older is a mystery that engenders considerable public interest (and forensic debate especially because of accounts of recovered memories of infancy). Overall, I hope to fill in important information about children's memory, in terms of both their reliability as eyewitnesses and the nature and development of their memory for their earliest years of life.

St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Human Research
Industry Sectors 
Scientific Research and Development Services
Health Care and Social Assistance
Start date 
1 Jan 2007
End date 
31 Dec 2011