Can your earliest memory be as a newly fertilized egg?

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People argue over how early a real memory can be. There are essentially two (valid) camps: Some suggest that memory is so closely tied to linguistic processing and symbolic thinking, which is thought to emerge after a year or so of life, that memories of the first few months of life are impossible. Others disagree, and while acknowledging that very few people have extremely early memories (as adults), the occasional pre-linguistic memory is possible. (For the record, I’m a member of the second group, though I also agree that linguistic and symbolic processing are generally associated with forming vital memories.) Those int he first group have notoriously glommed on to the idea of “constructed memory” to erase all contrary evidence by labeling it as made up. How convenient!

But none of that is important, because we now have evidence that memories can actually go back to the time of the initial fertilization of the egg that eventually became you. Here are the facts:

George W. Romney was the governor of Michigan and the president of American Motors Corporation. In 1946, he was involved in Detroit’s “Automotive Golden Jubilee” celebration, a big party and parade and stuff commemorating the beginnings of the automobile.

Apparently, George was so excited by the celebration that the night before, after much planning and preparation had been accomplished, he went home and had sex with his wife. Nine months later, Mitt Romney was born.

Recently, Mitt Romney told a Detroit audience that he remembers that day well. He told the audience “I was probably 4 [Cell Divisions] old or something like that” on the day of the Golden Jubilee, when three-quarters of a million people gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American automobile… “My dad had a job being the grandmaster. They painted Woodward Ave. with gold paint.” (source)

So, see? You can remember when you were a cell, or a few cells, anyway.

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5 thoughts on “Can your earliest memory be as a newly fertilized egg?

  1. I do remember a joke about how 3 old people were arguing who had the longest memory. The last one said “I remember going on a picnic with my father and coming back with my mother.”

    But really, I don’t see how memory is possible without a neural network.

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