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随身英语

The mystery of our earliest memories 人类早期记忆的谜团

 

童年期遗忘的谜团过去一个世纪以来一直困惑着科学家们。为什么在人类的幼儿期,一个充满体验和学习新事物的阶段,却被许多难以理解的事物而笼罩?本期《随身英语》探索可能导致我们遗忘幼儿时期经历的原因。

课文内容

词汇: 记忆

What is your earliest memory? For me, I have a hazy recollection of standing in a leafy garden surrounded by silver birch trees when I was four years old.

I'm around average: some people remember events as far back as two years old, while for others, things seem patchy until seven or eight.

But what is consistent is that no one can remember their own birth or very early infancy. And even after the first memory, most of us only have a sporadic collection of fleeting, flickering mental images until much later in childhood.

The phenomenon is known as 'childhood amnesia', a term coined by the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. So, what's going on here?

Babies are, writes Zaria Gorvett for BBC Future, "sponges for new information, forming 700 new neural connections every second and wielding language-learning skills to make the most accomplished polyglot green with envy".

And it's precisely this rapid mental development that causes the problem, according to a study by the University of Toronto in 2014. It found that the high rate of infant brain cell production could increase forgetfulness, because new cells interfere with existing mental circuits.

Another possible explanation is that the part of the brain that stores memories, the hippocampus, is not fully formed until around 18 months. Identity is also important: tests show infants don't recognise themselves in the mirror until they are around two years old.

Finally, there's the question of how accurate our early memories are at all. "People can pick up suggestions and begin to visualise them - they become like memories," psychologist Elizabeth Loftus told the BBC. Are our cherished first memories really just family stories?

词汇表

hazy 模糊的、不清晰的
recollection 记忆,往事
silver birch 白桦树
patchy 零零碎碎的,拼凑起来的
infancy 婴儿期、年幼时候
sporadic 零星的,分散的
fleeting 一闪而过的,短暂的
amnesia 失忆,健忘(症)
to coin 创造,杜撰(新词或表达)
psychoanalysis 精神分析学
sponge 像海绵般地吸收(信息)
neural 神经的
to wield 施加影响
accomplished 有造诣的,有才华的
polyglot 通晓多种语言的人
green with envy 非常羡慕,十分忌妒
forgetfulness 健忘
to interfere 干预,干涉
to visualise 设想,想象
cherished 珍惜的,珍爱的

测验与练习

1.  阅读课文并回答问题。

1. Why can't people remember the first years of their lives? 

2. What does it mean to be a 'sponge for new information'?

3. True or false? Babies are accomplished polyglots.

4. Which word means 'very green and covered in plants'?

5. Why might our earliest memories actually be false?

2.  请你在不参考课文的情况下完成下列练习。选择一个意思合适的单词填入句子的空格处

1. My memory of the party is a bit _________. 

flickering         patched         hazy         amnesia

2. _________ don't form lasting memories.

Childhood         Infant         Infancy         Infants

3. Brian is very _________. He can't remember what he ate for lunch!

forgetful         forgetfulness         forgettable         forgotten

4. Wang Li is like a _________. She learned how to use HTML in a week.

psychoanalyst         sponge         hippocampus         polyglot

5. People say that if you can _________ success, it makes you more likely to be successful.

coin         interfere with         visualise         wield

答案

1.  阅读课文并回答问题。

1. Why can't people remember the first years of their lives?
Three reasons are given. Firstly, in the first years of our lives our brains are growing so fast that new brain cells interfere with existing mental circuits. Secondly, the hippocampus is not fully formed until 18 months old. Thirdly, babies don't develop a sense of identity until around two years old.

2. What does it mean to be a 'sponge for new information'?
Being a 'sponge' means you acquire a lot of new information very quickly, the same way a sponge fills with water.

3. True or false? Babies are accomplished polyglots.
False. Although babies learn languages very fast, an 'accomplished polyglot' is someone who has learned several languages to a very high level.

4. Which word means 'very green and covered in plants'?
Leafy.

5. Why might our earliest memories actually be false?
According to Elizabeth Loftus, people pick up suggestions and visualise them - this makes these mental images seem like memories.

2. 请你在不参考课文的情况下完成下列练习。选择一个意思合适的单词填入句子的空格处

1. My memory of the party is a bit hazy.

2. Infants don't form lasting memories.

3. Brian is very forgetful. He can't remember what he ate for lunch!

4. Wang Li is like a sponge. She learned how to use HTML in a week.

5. People say that if you can visualise success, it makes you more likely to be successful.


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