fascinating facts about our memories

7 fascinating facts about our memories

One of the things that I absolutely love about photography is how it lets us hold on to moments in time that might otherwise slip away.

As much as we might like to think that we’ll remember all the important things, it’s quite scary how much ends up fading away over time.  I find the whole thing really interesting though, and loved studying the psychology of memory back in Uni (not that I can remember everything I learnt about it back then!).

I’ve been reading more about it recently and have found these 7 fascinating facts that you might not know about our memories:

7 fascinating facts about our memories


1. Our brains physical change when we learn new things

When we learn something new it causes actual physical changes in our brain’s structure.

Researchers have used MRI scans to discover that, when we learn something new, there is increased activity in certain areas of the brain as well as long-lasting changes in terms of white and grey matter.


2. We fill in gaps in our memories

We don’t always remember the details of events as accurately as we think we do.

A lot of the time our brains fill in the gaps based on what we think most likely happened.  We do this so subconsciously that we believe the memories to be completely real and accurate.


3. We remember things that didn’t actually happen

Following on from the last point, not only do we fill in gaps in our memories but we can also create entire false memories.

We all have things that we ‘remember’ from our childhoods that we’ve actually just pieced together from stories our parents have told us and photos we’ve seen from that time.

It goes further than that though.

A study carried out at the University of California involved people with normal and superior memories, and found that all the participants could be tricked into creating false memories.  During the study even the people with superior memories ‘remembered’ things like seeing footage of United Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania on 9/11.  This footage doesn’t actually exist, but the idea that it does was put in their minds by the researchers and they then went on to describe what they remembered seeing on it later on in the study.


4. We start forming memories before we’re even born.

Studies have been carried out that support what lots of parents have believed for years; that unborn babies can hear and remember sounds that are played to them.

Which is why newborn babies can often be soothed by the sound of songs that they heard a lot before they were born.

This is known as prenatal or foetal memory, and scientists believe it’s crucial in the development of attachment of a baby to its mother.


5. We also start forgetting memories while we’re still children

This is something I’ve noticed with my own children.

Rhys is 7 and has no memory of the time he spent going to nursery as a toddler.

Psychologists at Emory University carried out some research to find out when this ‘childhood amnesia’ starts.  They found that children aged 5-7 could remember over 60% of their earlier life events, while those aged 8 and 9 could only remember around 40% of these memories.


6. Our emotions influence how well we remember things

Dr John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, has found that we remember emotionally charged events better, for longer and more accurately than events that are more emotionally neutral.

He’s explained that this is most likely down to the dopamine that our brains release when we feel strong emotions.

He describes dopamine as being like a post-it note for our brains, telling them we need to remember this particular event that has an emotional significance for us.

We can use this to our advantage when we’re trying to learn something new, or teach our children something.  If we can teach our children something in a way that engages them emotionally they’ll be more likely to remember it.


7. Taking a photo of something makes your memory of it less clear

This might seem a strange thing for me as a photographer to share but I think it’s an important one to know.

Research has found that taking a photo to remember a particular moment in time can actually make our memory of that moment worse.

Scientists believe that this is down to the fact that our brains are focusing on the act of taking a photo rather than paying full attention to the thing we’re photographing.  So while we want to take a thousand photos of our children, we need to find a balance between that and fully being present in the moment with them to remember those times better.



We all want to remember as much as possible about our parenthood journeys.  From the big milestone moments to the little everyday details that make up the different stages of our children’s lives.

The perfect way to help keep these memories alive is to have a photographer come and document your family for you.

As much as we’d like to think we’ll remember everything, our memories are fallible.  We can’t always rely on them to keep these moments we want to hang on to safe.

So photograph the things you love, record those moments both big and small that you want to remember.

And from time to time, book a session with a photographer to come and record things for you, so you can be truly present in the moment too.


Madeline Littlejohns Photography relaxed fun family photos Swansea documentaryMadeline Littlejohns is a family photographer in central Swansea offering relaxed, natural portraits and documentary family photography to record your family’s story.

If you’d like to have a chat about a fun family photo session in Swansea, please do get in touch to say hi and discuss booking a parenthood session.


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