Theories of Forgetting
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Describe the retrieval failure theory
The inability to retrieve material due to an absence of the right cues or the failure to use them
What are retrieval cues?
Mental reminders or prompts that we create to assist our retrieval of memory later on
What is the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon
- Knowing that your memory has the information you are trying to remember but cannot retrieve it at the time
- Certain aspects of it can be recalled
- Can be explained by the retrieval failure theory or interference theory
Describe the interference theory of forgetting
Refers to the difficulties in retrieving information from the memory, caused by other material learnt previously or newly learnt information
Explain the two types of interference and provide examples
- Proactive interference: previously learnt material inhibits ability to retrieve new material
- Retroactive interference: newly learnt material inhibits ability to retrieve previously learnt material
What is motivated forgetting?
- Caused by an individual wanting to forget
- Suppression: conscious refusal to acces memories which are available
- Repression: painful and distressing memories are unconsciously pushed to an inaccesible past of the mind. Person is unaware it exists. Can be triggered
Limitations of Freud's theory of repression
- Individuals are unaware of memories therefore it is difficult to prove whether it existed or if it was suggested unless there is someone who can confirm it.
- Lack of experimental research due to ethical issues
Describe decay theory
- Suggests that memory traces in the brain will fade over time through lack of use and eventually becoming unavailable
- Memory is a physiological process
- Assumes that there are physical or chemical traces of memory
Limitations of the decay theory
- Has not proved that decay cause forgetting in LTM
- Unable to explain sudden recollections of events when right cues are available
- People are still able to retrieve procedural memories afters years of not doing it
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