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Why We Forget Essay

2191 words - 9 pages

One may remember the score to last year’s basketball game but forget a mother’s birthday. Remember faces, but not names. To be presented with so many pieces of information daily, the struggle to retain information plagues everyone. Why do we forget information that we try so hard to remember? Thorough case studies have been performed and a few prevailing theories about why this is and ways to reduce habits of forgetting have emerged. Memory is attributed to the functioning of three stages: encoding – the process of storing data, storage – the process of retaining data, and retrieval - the process of recovering data. Several factors are tied together and influence forgetting. It can happen ...view middle of the document...

Retroactive interference occurs when new information interferes with your ability to remember previously learned memories or information. Sometimes losing information or certain details has less to do with forgetting and more to do with the fact that it might have never made it to your long term memory in the first place.
Controversy and Definitions
Forgetting things can mean one of several different things. It can mean access problems, availability problems, encoding problems, rehearsal problems or other reasons such as amnesia caused by an accident. (Wixed, J. 2004 “The Psychology and Neuroscience of forgetting.”) A popular and extremely debatable concept, “trace decay” can occur with short term and long term memories. This theory is contradicted by the fact that one is able to ride a bike still even after not doing so for a long period of time. It’s strongly believed that some memories “trace decay” while others do not. (Hockenbury, Sandra, 2010) Research shows that sleep plays a big role in trace decay. The exact reasoning of this is still unknown. This theory also shows that your short term memory can only hold certain memories for a limited amount of time, and if not frequently accessed, will eventually fade away. One problem discovered about this theory is that in a real life situation the time in between encoding and recalling a memory will be filled with different events that may or may not happen to the person, making it harder to conclude that forgetting is indeed a result of the time period. (Paul Connerton, 2008 “Seven Types of Forgetting”) According to Paul, there are 7 types of forgetting. He suggests that forgetting isn’t a type of failure, but more so actions that lead to it. Repressive erasure is used by getting rid of every image or anything else that could possibly remind the person of a specific image or event. Prescriptive forgetting is when a person agrees to forget about a specific event in order to function more efficiently. An example would be that a classroom agrees to forget about a certain security issue to continue having the peace of mind that it is safe to return back into the classroom. Forgetting that is a constitutive in the formation of a new identity. This occurs when a person has the idea of forgetting their past identity to continue with a new one. Structural amnesia is when a person only remembers people who are socially important (John Barnes, “Genealogy”.) Forgetting as annulment is when useless information is discarded. Forgetting as planned obsolescence happens when a product is not meant to last long, but is continued to be bought by customers who tend to forget its previous failure. Forgetting as humiliated silence happened when there is a mishap where one becomes embarrassed and the idea of forgetting it gives ease.

History and Experiments
A German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus was one of the first to scientifically study forgetting and was the sole subject in an experiment he conducted....

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