Memory and Human Error

Topics: Memory processes, Memory, Psychology Pages: 6 (2035 words) Published: March 25, 2012
Memory and Human Error

The concept of human memory is yet to be completely understood with scientists still disputing the many theories and models. Undoubtedly, it is impossible to rule out human error completely; however, by adopting appropriate procedures the probability of errors can be minimized. This essay investigates the scientific studies of human memory and how empirical findings can be implemented to reduce human error at work. This paper arrives at the conclusion that four factors of human error can be identified enabling organizations to evaluate human errors following a scientific approach. In addition, organizations should also consider consulting employees, improve communication and risk awareness and train staff not only for their particular task, but also prepare them for unexpected situations. Finally, it is important to realize that human error prevention in the context of work is a dynamical process, which needs to be reassessed constantly.

Memory and Human Error
This essay investigates the scientific studies of human memory and how empirical findings can be implemented to reduce human error at work. The paper is structured as follows: First, an introduction to human memory and the role of forgetting. It will be argued that forgetting to remember to carry out intended actions is one of the most common reasons for human failure. Second, an overview of interference theory and decay theory which give us an understanding of why and how forgetting occurs. Third, failures of prospective memory and circumstances that have been identified to contribute to human errors will be assessed. The last part deals with the application of analytical methods in human error evaluation. It is concluded that error management has to be an ongoing process that needs to take into account all factors of human error causation to effectively prevent human error. The concept of human memory is yet to be completely understood with scientists still disputing the many theories and models. However, some ideas are widely accepted. For instance, it is generally agreed upon that memory consists of a range of different systems differing in storage duration and storage capacity rather than being one single entity. Furthermore, it is also universally accepted that there are three main processes, Encoding, Storing, and Retrieval that act upon those memory stores. Memory research dates back as early as 1880 when Ebbinghaus pioneered the experimental study on human memory with a simple reductionist approach. One characteristic of human memory is forgetting. Most people regard this as a nuisance, whereas in fact it can be assumed that forgetting can be a very useful attribute of the human memory. To remember every little detail that we have experienced in our lives would not only be an issue regarding storage capacity, but also would demand for a truly incredible retrieval system. Forgetting can also be seen as a defense system of the mind to ease the burden of anguish when experiencing overwhelming emotional pain. Hence, certain experiences and emotions are removed from conscious awareness, in some cases leading to motivated forgetting and possibly traumatic amnesia. The human memory is a process where significant information is filtered out and stored. Less important features are either destroyed or not readily accessible. Forgetting occurs in many ways and undoubtedly for many reasons. Loftus and Loftus (1976) have identified four main reasons why humans forget: failure to store, motivated forgetting, retrieval failure and interference.

Interference Theory of Forgetting
Interference theory seeks to explain why some events or experiences remain in our conscious memory for a lifetime, while other memories fade quickly. According to the theory forgetting occurs because the recall of an item is actively disrupted due to the influence of another item. It also suggests that similar experiences or events have a greater risk of...

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