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Forgetting - why we forget.

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Forgetting To understand why we forget we must ask: 1. If the information has been stored. i.e. availability 2. Can the information be retrieved. i.e. accessibility Atkinson and Shiffrin Availability is due to the transfer of information from the short term memory to the long term memory whilst accessibility is to do with the long term memory. Trace decay, displacement and interference prevents information staying in short term memory long enough to be transferred to long term memory. Interference, motivated forgetting and cue - dependant forgetting are all to do with the failure to retrieve. Trace Decay William James (1890) Stated that learning leaves a 'trace' in the brain (i.e. there is some sort of physical change after learning). Forgetting is due to a spontaneous fading or weakening of the neural memory trace over time. Hebb (1949) Stated that it only applies to short term memory. Evidence seems to sagest that it is what happens in between learning and recall which determines forgetting in short term memory not time. Displacement In limited short term memory store, new items displace old items i.e. 7 +/- 2 items. There is some evidence to support this. ...read more.


If trace decay is occurring memory should be better. Displacement There is some evidence to support the idea of displacement Shallice (1967) Presented subjects with a list of numbers. The more numbers that followed a probe number the less likely the probe number was to be remembered. The later numbers tend to displace the earlier numbers making them more difficult to remember. However because the earlier numbers were presented first they were forgotten as a result of trace decay. Shallice claimed that although time appeared to have some effect on recall, the number of items following a probe number had a grater effect. This suggest that displacement provides a better explanation of forgetting in short term memory than trace decay. Interference Support fro interference theory is based mainly on the findings of laboratory experiments. Slamecka (1966) Participants were given a word i.e. animal and asked for a word they associated with it i.e. dog. They gave the first word that came to mind which probably reflects an everyday situation. They were then asked to learn a new set of words linked to animal such as cow bear cast etc. they were than asked to recall these words including their first associated word dog. ...read more.


Eysenck (1998) It has proved easy to demonstrate powerful effects of cue - dependant forgetting inside the laboratory. It seems probable that this is the main reason for forgetting in long term memory. Emotional factors Flash bulb memories Researchers disagree about the existence of flash bulb memories. Conway (1995) Argues that flash bulb memories are a distinctive type of memory characterised by the emotional response an event produces ad the importance attached to the event. Others researches see nothing special about so - called flash bulb memories. They see them as subject to the normal process of forgetting just like any other memory. There is some evidence to support both points of view. Motivated forgetting It is difficult to evaluate the evidence on repressed memories for the following reasons: 1. they are not easy to retrieve 2. creating the kind of traumatic experiences required would be very difficult 3. it would also be unethical to create traumatic experiences 4. researchers have tried to create repressed memories but the mild anxiety that results is hardly a basis for repression Holmes (1990) These experiments have provided little or no evidence for repressed memories. Most of the evidence comes from clinical studies where psychiatrists ask their clients detailed and probing questions about past events. As Psychology Forgetting Unit One ...read more.

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