9 Jul 2008

Mathematically proven: simpler childhoods make better memories

09 July 2008

Children today are more likely to remember a sunny family day at the seaside than playing with the latest digital must-haves, according to a mathematical equation released today.

Launching the start of Childhood Memories Month in July, the good memory formula was created for The Children’s Society to help the public contribute their favourite memory as part of the charity’s investigation into experiences of childhood, past and present.

Psychology expert and former Cardiff University professor, Dr Cliff Arnall, who developed the formula, attributes love, simple low cost activities, carefree living, weather patterns, friends and a touch of ‘magic’ as the major contributors of a good memory. It also considers rehearsal , where family members reminisce over past events repeatedly over a long period of time, encouraging a memory otherwise forgotten. In mathematical terms:

                            (L x C) + W + S + M
Good Memory =    ___________________
                                      F + R

Dr Arnall said: “Time spent with family, building sandcastles and ‘playing out’ resonate with us more than solitary experiences. Based on this memory blueprint, children today are more likely to remember camping or fishing trips over completing a computer game or being given the latest ‘must have’ premium priced toy.”

Childhood Memories Month is part of the charity’s ongoing Hundreds and Thousands of Childhood Memories campaign which aims to collect the nation’s favourite childhood stories, to help the charity chart how childhood has changed over the decades. To share your favourite memory, visit www.hundredsandthousands.org.uk

To date The Children’s Society has asked 6,429 adults, via a nationwide search, and a host of celebrities, including Debra Stephenson, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Sir Terry Wogan, for their most treasured moments . A third of those who grew up in the early 1900s rated family experiences the most special, sharing similar sentiments as those who grew up in the mid and late century. These findings are supported by memories captured from 25,000 people across the country at 10 regional roadshows. The overwhelming memory was that of childhood games played with friends and picnics at the beach rather than material games.

Corrie actress and mum of two, Debra Stephenson, said: “I want my children to have fantastic memories of their growing years so I try to be as much a part of their lives as possible. Family time is the best gift for kids, and often it’s the simplest things that make the best moments.”

She continued: “My favourite memory was the first time my mum bought me a bubble blower. I must have been the happiest girl in the world that day. I was all over those bubbles like a moth to a flame.”

Martin Field, director of campaigns from The Children’s Society said: “We urge everyone to get involved to help us raise hundreds and thousands of the nation’s favourite memories. As a charity committed to achieving the best start in life for all children we want to see more clearly the ingredients which help make for a good childhood today.”
- ENDS -

Launch photograph of Debra Stephenson is available on request
Press Office: IncrediBull Ideas
For more information, pictures or an interview with Richard Johnson, please contact Lishai Oz or Clare Butler at IncrediBull ideas on 0207 940 3800 or email lishai.oz@incredibullideas.com or clare.butler@incredibullideas.com

Press Office: The Children’s Society
For more information on the work of The Children’s Society, please contact Samantha Shaw on 0207 841 4423 or email sxs@childsoc.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

Rationale for the Good Memory Formula

L – Love: Loving feelings, feeling safe and secure with the people (and pets/animals) around you. The memories are often characterised by a deep sense of connection, love and fondness.

C – Carefree Living: Perception that life is carefree. Feelings of freedom. Freedom to wander around your community where it is safe to play. Neighbours know who you are and keep an eye out for you.

W – Weather: Memories are often connected with a variety of weather patterns, e.g. snow, hot sunny days at the beach, windy autumn afternoons with leaves blowing, camping or caravanning when it’s pouring down with rain, thunderstorms, etc.

S – Simplicity: The best memories are often associated with simple low financial cost activities. These memories don’t involve playing electronic toys or playing video games but can include looking after a favourite doll or building a steam train out of lego/meccano/k-nex

M – Magic: A good childhood memory will often have a magical quality associated with it. This could include a sense of time standing still or heightened perception of colours or sounds. In adulthood these events are often called peak experiences. An example would be smelling a rose with complete focus and feeling like you are totally in that moment

F – Friends: Whilst this is an integral part of ‘Love’ it also merits a mention in its own right. Friends, as in adult life, are crucial to happiness and positive mental health. For young people especially animals also have a major role to play here. The usual animals that children cite in their most positive memories include dogs, cats, horses and rabbits. But the critical point is the emotional connection the child has with the animal that during early to mid childhood can be very strong

R – Rehearsal: Fond or fun events will often be referred to by a family many times. For example the young person may draw a picture of his or her trip to the beach and this is then put up on the kitchen wall. This exposure to the event after it has happened means the event will be encoded in the brain at a deeper level. Most families have a ‘do you remember when’ set of stories that could include a favourite positive memory

Good Memory Formula explained:

(Love x Carefree Living) + Simplicity + Weather + Magic
                       Friends + Rehearsal *