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Describe a theory of forgetting.

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Introduction

Describe a theory of forgetting. The Trace Decay Theory of forgetting is one of a number of theories used by cognitive psychologists. Psychologists often argue over two beliefs regarding the nature of forgetting, namely Availability (i.e. forgotten information is not stored in the first place or is completely lost) and Accessibility (i.e. forgotten information is stored in the LTM, but there is a problem accessing it). The Trace Decay Theory is associated with the problem of availability. The logic behind this theory is that the things we learn (i.e. smells, names, places, telephone numbers) are stored in the brain as physical traces, or Engrams. A study by Hebb in 1949 led him to the conclusion that when an Engram is being formed, or when learning is taking place, it is very delicate and liable to disruption. ...read more.

Middle

However such environments are unnatural and unexperienced in everyday life. They are said to lack validity. Trace Decay Theory in short tem memory relates to the theory of duration in short term memory. Brown and Peterson (1965) used the serial probe technique to test this theory. For this, participants were given a series of numbers to learn. They were then given one of the numbers and asked which number followed it. The numbers were presented at different speeds, thus, if the trace decay theory is indeed correct, then the faster the numbers were presented the better recall should occur, as the more likely the information is to stay in the short term memory. However this was not the case with the results. ...read more.

Conclusion

Another theory of forgetting is the Retrieval Failure Theory, or cue-dependent forgetting. According to this theory, memories cannot be retrieved because the relevant 'cues' are not being used. Tulvig and Pearlstone (1966) conducted a study which showed the affects 'cues' had on recall. Participents were read a lists of varying numbers of words, some of which were in categories with one, two or four word plus the category name. Those who were given category names scored higher, especially where more words were used. Those without categories scored less, but were then given category names and their scores increased. This concludes that the category names acted as 'cues', allowing the participants access to previously unavailable in their brain. The Cue-dependent Theory is clearly more reliable as it has more actual evidence to back it up, where as the Trace Dependent Theory has very little evidence to support it. ...read more.

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