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Outline and evaluate research into the way emotional factors influence forgetting

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Outline and evaluate research into the way emotional factors influence forgetting Forgetting encompasses the inability to recall or recognise information. Forgetting may occur because the information no longer exists in memory and so is not available for retrieval. Alternatively it can occur because it cannot be found and so is not accessible (cue-dependent forgetting). Forgetting is more likely to occur with information that needs to be recalled, as recognition is generally easier than recall. In this essay I am going to discuss how emotional factors influence forgetting. A theory for the inability to retrieve a memory is that emotionally threatening material is being repressed, or held from conscious awareness. Two concepts, repression and flashbulb memory, have created interest in the effect of emotion on memory - the first suggesting it could increase forgetting and the second suggesting it could prevent it. Cognitive psychologists have tried to use their theories (e.g. of rehearsal, interference, and cue dependency) to explain such emotional effects. Freud proposed that forgetting is motivated by the desire to avoid displeasure; embarrassing, unpleasant or anxiety-producing experiences are repressed/ pushed down into the unconscious. Repression, in Freudian terminology, is defined as a protective defence mechanism that involves the ego actively blocking the conscious recall of memories, thus becoming inaccessible. ...read more.


The studies that have been conducted, show mixed results and, where negative emotions have been found to increase forgetting, there has been debate over the cause i.e. emotion can affect memory without the need for an ego. Mild anxiety has been produced in the laboratory by giving false 'failure feedback' which does impair memory. However rather than causing repression, Holmes (1990) argues that it causes people to think about the failure which distracts attention away from the memory test (interference theory), since giving 'success feedback' also impairs recall. Higher anxiety was produced by Loftus & Burns (1982) who showed two groups a film of a bank robbery, but exposed one of the groups to a far more violent version where a young boy was shot in the face. The group that saw this version later showed far poorer recall of detail than the control group. Freud might have suggested repression, but Loftus (1987) could explain the forgetting with the weapons focus effect. This is where a fearful or stressful aspect(s) of a scene (e.g. the gun) channel attention towards the source of distress and away from other details. Alternatively, people may need to be in the same state i.e. anxious, to recall properly (cue-dependent explanation). Whilst cases of psychogenic amnesia are consistent with Freud's theory, a strictly Freudian interpretation may not be necessary, and experimental support for the repression hypothesis is inconclusive. ...read more.


Brown & Kulik suggested that a special neural mechanism in the brain, results in the whole scene becoming 'printed' on the memory. However, they do not go in to much detail about this, therefore leading to ambiguity surrounding this theory. Cahill & McGaugh (1998) think that because it is adaptive to remember emotionally important events animals have evolved arousing hormones that help respond in the short term and aid storage of the event in the long term. Some researchers have also suggested that it is repeated rehearsal of these memories that makes them enduring (Neisser, 1982). Also, because an event is given prominence in the media and is widely discussed in society, this may also contribute to the endurance of FM's. Lastly, the similar form of 'flashbulb memories' may just reflect the normal way people relate information about events to others (Neisser, 1982). In conclusion, there are two concepts which try to explain how emotional factors influence memory, for example, according to Freud's motivated - forgetting theory, unacceptable memories are made inaccessible through the defence mechanism of repression. The research surrounding Flashbulb Memories shows the vividness of FM is no guarantee of their accuracy, and we only have FM's of events which have personal relevance and consequences. Whilst there are strengths to both concepts there are also limitations to each. ?? ?? ?? ?? Sarah Keogh ...read more.

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