Topics: Memory processes, Interference theory, Decay theory Pages: 7 (2654 words) Published: March 28, 2013
We sometimes remember people whom we met years ago, but seem to forget what we learned in a course shortly after we take the final exam. What is even worse is forgetting it right before we take the test. Why do we so easily and quickly forget phone numbers we have just looked up? These are, but a few of the instances and questions that have intrigued cognitive psychologists the world over and further motivated their investigation in the area of forgetting. They have sort to find out why. Forgetting (retention loss) refers to apparent loss of information already encoded and stored in an individual's long term memory. It is a spontaneous or gradual process in which old memories are unable to be recalled from memory storage. Other psychologists have also defined forgetting. Munn (1967) defines it as the temporary or permanent loss of the ability to recall or recognize something learned earlier. Drever (1952) also defined forgetting as the failure at any time to recall an experience when attempting to do so or to perform an action previously learned. Memory performance is usually related to the active functioning of three stages. These three stages are encoding, storage and retrieval. Encoding is the way an item or information is stored in the memory. It is subject to delicately balanced optimization that ensures that relevant memories are recalled. Storage refers to how you retain encoded information in memory. Retrieval refers to how you gain access to information stored in memory. Encoding, storage and retrieval are often viewed as sequential stages. That is, you first take in the information, then you hold it for a while, and then you later pull it out. The focus of this discussion will however be on retrieval. Many different factors influence the actual process of forgetting. An example could be the amount of time the new information is stored in the memory. The amount of time the information is stored in the memory, depending on the minutes hours or even days, can increase or decrease forgetting depending on how well the information is encoded. Events involved with forgetting can happen either before or after the actual memory process. This means that, it’s either the event was not properly encoded, that you were distracted while learning the new information, which means that you never truly retained the information long enough to remember it later, or that after encoding, certain factors interfered with the information either during storage or at the point of retrieval. Failing to retrieve an event does not mean that this specific event has been forever forgotten. Sometimes, given the proper cues, that event could be remembered. Problems with remembering, learning and retaining new information are a few of the most common complaints of older adults. As a disorder, forgetting may be described as amnesia. Research has shown that there are a few health behaviors that to some extent can prevent forgetting from happening so often. Forgetting can be reduced by rehearsal, the repeated recitation of an item. It can also be reduced by the use of mnemonic devices such as categorical clustering, the organization of a list of items into a set of categories. For instance, if you need to remember to buy apples, milk, grapes, yoghurt, tomatoes and lettuce, you would be better able to do so if you tried to memorize the items by categories: fruits- apples, grapes; dairy products- milk, yogurt; vegetables- tomatoes, lettuce. Forgetting is not always negative, it has some positive sides. For instance, it allows you to continue your life without giving focus to past painful, embarrassing, stressful, or unhappy experiences. Some of these experiences, when forgotten, make life easier. One important authority to have studied the mechanisms of forgetting was the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. Using himself as the sole subject in his experiment, he memorized lists of three letter nonsense syllable words. He then measured his own...
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