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Why do we forget? Causes of forgetting | Trace Decay Theory | Motivated Forgetting

We forget things to recall that is why we forget, either these are the phone numbers of our relatives or names of people, homework given to students by their teachers, ID or PAN numbers, dates or days, birthday of our friends or family members etc. You may notice at your childhood when you were asked to bring some vegetables or anything else from the market you may completely forget for what you were sent and why you were there, even we can't remember where we put our keys. So forgetting is a common problem that can have both minor and serious consequences.  This apparent contradiction in functionality opens up the question of why we forget some things but remember others.

Brain Pic| Credit Shafiqhub

Don't be panic it is possible to solve this problem, shafiqhub promise that you will not forget anything after reading to this article.
Let's understand the problem firstly and then we will come to the solution..........

Why do we forget? 

From Wikipedia
"Forgetting or dis remembering is the apparent loss or modification of information already encoded and stored in an individual's short or long-term memory. It is a spontaneous or gradual process in which old memories are unable to be recalled from memory storage."

One of today's best-known memory researchers, Elizabeth Loftus, has identified four major reasons why people forget: Retrieval failure, Interference, Failure to store, and Motivated forgetting. Let's discuss all of them one by one.......

01. Retrieval failure

Also known as cue-dependent forgetting. This is associated with problem in retrieving or accessing information from long term memory or short term. The information cannot be accessed because the retrieval cues are not present. This can be understand betterly with the help of Trace decay theory. 

Trace Decay Theory| Credit Shafiq hub
This theory tells us, when an individual learns something new, a neurochemical traces is created. The information get stored in these traces, in short term memory. According to a research short term memory lost in 20-30 seconds. If the information stored in short term memory is not recalled at a particular instant of time, it will fade away with the passage of time and can't be retrieved correctly. We will understand it with an example: Let's imagine a message written in sand, with every ocean wave that flows over the shore making the writing less legible until it eventually disappears entirely. The sand represents the web of brain cells that form a memory in the brain, and the ocean waves represent time passing.

02. Interference

Interference occurs when information is similar in format gets in the way of information that someone is trying to recall. When we write/learn a new information which is similar to the old information. Actually we do overwrite to the old information with new one. These memories interfere with each other and disrupt one another.
There are two types of Interference:

a). Retroactive interference is when more recent information gets in the way of trying to recall older information. An example would be calling your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend by your new boyfriend/girlfriend’s name. The new name retroactively interferes with the old one, which is clearly problematic for recall.

b). Proactive interference is the reverse direction of interference to retroactive interference. This is when old information prevents the recall of newer information. This could, for example, occur with telephone numbers. When trying to recall a new phone number, the old phone number you have previously had for years could proactively interfere with the recall, to the point when it is very difficult to remember the new number.

Weaknesses of the theory
Limited scope: This theory only can explain lack of recall when information in a similar format prevents recall. This means that there are many types of recall that are not explained by this theory.

Poor ecological validity: Like much of memory research there is a problem with the validity of the research that supports the theory. It is predominantly laboratory based and therefore does not test everyday recall.

03. Failure to Store

When forgetting is not associated with these causes discussed above. Sometimes peoples failed to fetch information from the source. While learning, the information firstly goes to the short term memory space of brain. This information lost in 20-30 seconds and if it is recalled in time, it will goes to the long term memory space of brain. Encoding failure prevent information from entering the long term memory. Encoding means understanding the real and hidden meaning in the given information. If encoding don't happen correctly there is no significance of information to our prefrontal cortex. Our brain will lose the information which doesn't mean at all. For example, if you give a book (which you are interested in) to your friend to read, after reading the whole book he/she will say , this ia good book, I like it. He/she will not tell you what he/she take from the book. The reason is simple, he/she is unable to store the information contained in book.

04. Motivated Forgetting

Motivated forgetting arises from a great motive or desire to forget. It is the theorized psychological behavior in which people may forget unwanted memories especially those of traumatic or disturbing events or experiences. Painful memories can be upsetting and anxiety-provoking, so there are times we may desire to eliminate them. The two basic forms of motivated forgetting are suppression, which is a conscious form of forgetting, and repression, an unconscious form of forgetting.
However, the concept of repressed memories is not universally accepted by all the psychologists. One of the problems with repressed memories is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to scientifically study whether or not a memory has been repressed.
Also note that mental activities such as rehearsal and remembering are important ways of strengthening memory, and memories of painful or traumatic life events are far less likely to be remembered, discussed, or rehearsed.

A Word From Shafiq Hub
While forgetting is not something that you can avoid, but understanding the reasons for it can be useful. We may forget varieties of reasons and in some cases a number of factors may influence why we struggle to recall information and experience. Understanding some of the factors that influence forgetting can make it easier to put memory-improvement strategies into practice. In next article we will talk about solutions of forgetting.

If you found something useful in this article please forward it to others.


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