Discuss the Reasons We Forget, and Give at Least Three Examples of How We May Improve Our Memory.

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Memory refers to the processes that are used to store, retain and later retrieve information; these processes are known as encoding, storage and retrieval. However with memory comes the natural phenomenon of forgetting which refers to the inability to regain, recall or recognise information that was, or still is, stored in long-term memory. There are many reasons that we forget information but these can be grouped into four main categories; retrieval failure, interference, failure to store and motivated forgetting (Loftus 1999). Although there are also many strategies that we can use in order to improve our memory. Retrieval failure is one of the most common causes of forgetting and one possible explanation of this is known as the decay theory. This theory gives an explanation of forgetting as a problem of availability – that is, information is lost completely from the memory system through disuse and passing of time which as examined by Hebb in 1949. It is biological processes in the brain which cause the trace decay until eventually the message it carried is lost. This theory has led to further research by scientists to look at how neural circuits change when long-term memory forms and furthermore, how changes such as this could decay over time (Villarreal et al., 2002). However it has been also been criticised in the sense that we do still recall things we haven’t thought about for a long time such as riding a bike: although we’ve not been renewing the physical memories in the meantime the memory is still there. Also, some professional actors are able to recite lines from productions they were in two years earlier despite having learnt other scripts since (Noice and Noice, 2002b). The interference theory proposes that we forget information due to other items in long-term memory impairing our ability to retrieve it (Postman and Underwood 1973), two types of this are known as proactive and retroactive interference. Proactive interference happens when old information blocks disrupt the remembering of related new information. An example of this would be if you changed passwords – you may continue to enter your old password and struggle to remember your new one due to the memory of your old password interfering with your ability to retrieve the new one. Retroactive interface happens when new information blocks or disrupts the retrieval of old information, for example after having your new password for two months if asked to recall your old one you may struggle to remember it. Interference can occur due to the brain taking time to change short-term memories into long-term memories and some researchers have proposed when new information enters the system it can interfere with the conversion of older information into long-term memories (Wixted 2005). Others have said that once long-term memories are created retroactive and proactive interference happens due to competition among retrieval cues (Anderson and Neely, 1996). When dissimilar memories become related to similar or identical retrieval cues, confusion can result and accessing a cue may call up the wrong memory. In forgetting, failure to store is also known as encoding failure which occurs when information isn’t processed enough in order to reach long-term memory. A well-known experiment asked participants to identify the correct U.S penny out of a group of incorrect pennies (Nickerson and Adams 1979). The coins appearance doesn’t serve significance to many of us meaning we may not notice specific details no matter how often we see them every day, the only details needed to distinguish pennies from other coins are encoded in our long-term memory. We tend to notice information but fail to encode it deeply because we turn our attention to something else. Angelica Bonacci and Brad Bushman (2002) conducted an experiment where they randomly selected three hundred and twenty-eight adults to watch either a sexually explicit, violent or neutral television...
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