Learning to forget, forgetting to learn: Memory processes in cognitive development
The early years of life are an exciting period of growth and change in cognition. Children learn a seemingly infinite amount of new information despite limitations in their basic cognitive capacities, such as attention and memory abilities. I will start the talk by outlining ways in which children’s rapid forgetting constrains cognitive development. However, the majority of the talk will review research supporting the hypothesis that forgetting is actually promoting children’s learning. In particular, I will argue that forgetting acts as a form of abstraction, which promotes children’s ability to generalize knowledge across contexts. I will end the talk by discussing the possibility that what makes children incredible learners is not simply that they quickly learn to encode information in the world, but that they rapidly forget the large amount of irrelevant information they learn.