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Why We Forget?


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I found the 5 theories on why we forget. However, I was wondering if there were any more, either not scientifically accepted or pending. Are there any of you that have your own theories on why we forget?

 

The five I found are:

 

The Atrophy Theory

The Interference Theory

The Displacement Theory

The Neural Consolidation Theory

The Cue Dependent Theory

 

http://www.scism.sbu.ac.uk/inmandw/tutorials/memory/qu4.htm

 

There are 4 factors involved in forgetting:

Interference

 

The dominant approach to forgetting during this century was based on interference theory. The assumption that our ability to learn is disrupted by what we have learnt before and what we will learn in the future.

Interference can be divided in two:

Proactive interference: later learning is disrupting.

Retroactive interference: earlier learning is disrupting.

Interference theory can be traced back to Hugo Munsterberg during the 19th century. He had for years kept his watch in one of his pocket, when he started to put the watch in another pocket, he realised that he was still looking for the watch in the pocket where he used to keep it. The stimulus: "What time is it? ", demanded a new response, i.e. a different pocket from the one where he used to keep it.

 

Interference does not seem to be a popular factor anymore thought as first of all, it is not very informative about the process of forgetting and secondly and secondly, it demands special situations (same stimulus for two different responses).

 

Physical damage

 

This can be done in two forms: Amnesia and brain damage.

Amnesia are temporary damages to the brain, it affects long time as well as working memory. Regardless of lesion locations, seems to affect the storage of complex associations, this ability seems to come back to normal as the subject recovers.

 

Brain damage is a more serious case as it is permanent (one part of the brain stops functioning). In this case, the subject suffers from a loss of mental abilities. Alzheimer disease is a common form of dementia.

 

Emotion

 

This can be categorised as repressionist : the subject who has been shocked so deeply, traumatised about an event, experience, refuses (unconsciously) to acquire any facts; although the subject stored the facts, they are at an unconscious level and he/she will not be able to access these facts something can be done towards the cause (trauma), which might enable the subject to recover (psychoanalysis ) .

 

Trace decay

 

The underlying assumption here is that learning leaves a "trace" in the brain, there is a sort of physical change after learning that was not there before, and forgetting is due to a spontaneous fading or weakening of the neural memory trace over time.

 

 

4. How do we forget?

 

Answer from Nathan Williams, Bamidele Fasheyiku

There are a number of theories on how we forget. These are listed below with their descriptions:

Decay (or atrophy) theory

 

Basically this states that if information is not used(or rehearsed), with time forgetting may occur. Behind this lies the theory that in memorising something, a physical change takes place within the neuroanatomy, i.e. as Solso(1991) states, a "trace" is left. This trace will eventually dissolve through disuse/neglect. However, as Solso further states the decay theory does not explain the influence of activities between the initial learning and attempted recall. This leads to the following theory, interference.

 

Interference theory

 

This theory has been the dominant approach to forgetting for the majority of this century, hence much research has been undertaken on it which has been well documented. Eysenck and Keane identify the two types of interference:

 

Proactive - when previous learning interferes with later learning.

 

Retroactive - when later learning disrupts earlier learning.

The hypothesis is that associative connections are held in memory so long as other competing information does not interfere with them. Our third experiment described in the answer to question 2 demonstrates the effects of interference. After learning, the subsequent daily activities of waking subjects inhibited their ability to recall the nonsense syllables, this being an example of retroactive interference.

 

Sperling(1986) gives the following evidence in support of the interference theory:

 

The spontaneous recall of long 'forgotten' facts.

 

The invariably greater speed at which material can be relearned than newly learned.

 

When hypnotised, the ability to recall long forgotten facts and experiences.

 

After hypnosis, the ability to carry out instructions given during hypnosis and now consciously 'forgotten'.

Displacement theory

 

This is associated with short term memory, where the capacity for information is limited to seven chunks(usually +/- 2). The theory is that attempting to learn an eighth chunk will likely displace another. As Kellog(1997) notes, this theory cannot be associated with long-term memory because of its virtually unlimited capacity.

 

Neural Consolidation theory

 

This is explained by Dobson et al(1990). They state that it is a well known fact that brain damaged patients often report memory loss for events that have taken place immediately before their accident. This is known as retrograde amnesia. However as Banyard and Hayes(1994) observe, there may be many other factors going on in such a subjects life which might influence memory. These factors could be viewed as interference.

 

There is also a theory for infantile amnesia, meaning we are unable to recall events from the first two or three years of life. The reasons for this are still unclear. A number of theories have been put forward for this, the traditional one being the inability to store events in the first place. Kellog explains that the attentional and perceptual systems of the infant may not be sufficiently developed to encode the events.

 

Cue dependant theory

 

It is generally accepted that learning takes place within a context and that we encode information in relation to its perceptual environment. Forgetting here, is actually failure of retrieval cues to match the encoded nature of items in memory, because the cueing conditions are too remote from the thing we are trying to recall. Solso identifies an experience, we are sure we as students have all gone through:

 

"I knew the answer, but I didnt know what you wanted."

 

He explains that here retrieval and encoding cues are incongruent(lecturers please note and take pity!)

 

However, this final theory is not so much based upon actual forgetting, which implies memory is lost, as it is that memories remain but are perhaps very weak and waiting for the right stimulus to revive them. This is demonstrated in the description of our second experiment in question 2.

 

 

4. How do we forget?

 

Answer from Abi Tobun, Carmen Stanley

The two traditional theories of forgetting are

The memory trace simply decays or fades away, like a notice that is exposed to the sun and rain will gradually fade away until it is illegible.

Memeory traces are disrupted or obscured by subsequent learning. In other words, forgetting occurs because of interference.

Myers, 1996 states that

"Forgetting occurs when we fail to encode information and when our stored memories decay. Forgotten events are like books you cannot find in the library, some because you never acquired them, others because they are discarded".

 

Information sometimes enters our brain and though we know it is there, we cannot get it out. For example, a person's name may be "on the tip of the tongue" waiting to be retrieved. Forgetting problems lie behind the occasional memory retrieval failure.

 

Causes of retrieval failure (forgetting)

 

Proactive Interference - This is the disruptive effect of the prior learning on the recall of new information. For example, after receiving a phone number, the old one may interfere.

 

Retroactive Interference - This is the disruptive effect of new learning on the recall of old information. For example, the learning of new students' names interferes with a teachers recall of names learnt in previous classes.

 

 

The diagram illustrates Proactive and Retroactive interference

 

 

Repression - In psychoanalytic theory, this is the basic defence mechanism that banishes anxiety-arousing thoughts, feelings and memories from consciousness. In Sigmund Freud's concept of repression, he proposed that with more painful information our memory systems are self-censoring. That is, we supposedly repress painful information. Freud said that the submerged memory still lingers and can be retrieved with patience during therapy or by some later cue.

 

"A reported case involved a woman with an intense, unexplained fear of running water. An aunt solved the mystery one day by whispering, "I have never told." The words cued the woman's memory of an incident when, as a disobedient young child, she wandered away from a family picnic and became trapped under a waterfall - until being rescued by her aunt, who promised not to tell her parents." (Kihlstrom, 1990).

 

 

4. How do we forget?

 

Answer from David Allnutt [..]

There are three main theories regarding forgetting. These are as follows:

Trace Decay

 

This is based on the idea of producing a trace in the brain tissues. If you could imagine pouring hot water into a bowl of strawberry flavoured jelly. The water will produce patterns in the jelly. If the water is too cold then the pattern or trace will be weak. This is the same for traces in the brain, if the trace is weak then the information will not be remembered.

 

Interference

 

This theory maintains that memory is based on the formation of associations. An item might interfere the learning process of associating the same item with new associations. For example when I moved from Croydon to Tadworth, I kept on remembering my old post code instead of the new one.

 

Retrieval Failure

 

The expression 'It's on the tip of my tongue' is used at some point by people who know the answer or the item in question, but cannot retrieve it. This area of memory relates to storage and retrieval. Information is stored in memory, but sometimes fails to be accessed when required.

 

Tulving and Pearlstone found out that cues made information accessible. If an incorrect retrieval cue is used then forgetting occurs.

 

The above three theories hold true for their followers, and as per usual psychological research indicates that a theory fits best in different situations.

 

An old hypothesis stated that forgetting in Short-Term Memory (in seconds) is accounted for by trace decay. While longer intervals are due to interference.

 

Melton (1963) produced a paradigm. He stated that the distinction between Short-Term Memory and Long-Term Memory cannot be maintained on the old basis. Because interference explanations seem appropriate in many short-term tasks.

Edited by Cap'n Refsmmat
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Are there any of you that have your own theories on why we forget?

 

I always found "Why" -type questions difficult to answer. There is a limited capacity for storing information. A large portion of the information we recieve is useless to us over long periods. we need some heuristic that normally results in us keeping information that is usefull. Forgetting is probably just the result of trying to maintain an effective internal-model. Holding on to every peice of information is not something useful for the brain to do.

 

It seems ot make more sense to try and answer 'Why to we remember something?" What properties of a stimulus, event ,etc., make it stay in memory for longer.

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It seems ot make more sense to try and answer 'Why to we remember something?" What properties of a stimulus' date=' event ,etc., make it stay in memory for longer.[/quote']

 

Okay, why do you remember something?

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The neurons and the synaptic memories that they create are living things. The neurons can grow branches and they can shrink back their branches and/or make them grow into other directions. The shape changing has to due with the surface charge and surface area. In other words, the more branchings a neuron has the more surface area it has. As such, movement into more branching defines a higher potential neuron because it has more surface area and more surface charge. Losing branching defines a lowering potential neuron state. This can occur at both the single neuron level as well was via clusters of neurons. The focus of the ego helps maintain the higher potential needed for memories to last longer. If one stops thinking about certain things, the memory potential gradually lowers such that the diminished branching often creates a type of summary of the original more inclusive memories.

 

One of the things that I do is on certain occations, like birthdays and near New Years, I try to review everything I can remember over the past year in terms of my life's experiences, trying to recreate the emotional valance along with the memories. I am essentially giving these memories a little extra dose of ego focus so they last a little bit longer.

 

Another reason memories fade is that they become forward integrated into the wisdom of experience. The memory branchings can also increase from the narrow range of branching assoociated with the original memories into more complex orhanization. The carpender does not need to remember every nail he hammered or every job he did, but all these memories become integrated into the wisdom stemming from years of experience.

 

It is a little more complicated than just surface charge. The biochemicals involved are equilibrium phenomena that add a little extra capacitance so they neurons do not change so quickly.

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Another reason memories fade is that they become forward integrated into the wisdom of experience. The memory branchings can also increase from the narrow range of branching assoociated with the original memories into more complex orhanization. The carpender does not need to remember every nail he hammered or every job he did, but all these memories become integrated into the wisdom stemming from years of experience.

 

I think this is one we can all relate to. Also, I'm pretty sure this fits into an interference or grouping explanation of why we forget. In the case of the carpender, not much memory is used to remember a specific nail. Besides, this doesn't belong in an example of relative mundane everyday experiences, facts, or memorization. You'd be hard pressed to find any carpender who remember that he just hit his 476th nail in right before lunch, or when Jerome fell off the roof. But I see your point. *This example may fit under the displacement theory--as you move on to a new nail, the memory of hitting (usually the seventh) nail is displaced--the best example for this is the memorization of 7-digit phone numbers, and I think the carpender example works in the same way.*

 

One of the things that I do is on certain occations, like birthdays and near New Years, I try to review everything I can remember over the past year in terms of my life's experiences, trying to recreate the emotional valance along with the memories. I am essentially giving these memories a little extra dose of ego focus so they last a little bit longer.

 

Does this work for you at all?

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I think one of the problems within many memory studies is equating memorizing data and trivia with intelligence. The memory of details is important but it is not how the brain handles data over time. Using the example of the carpenter, the details of each nail or customer are not extremely important to him if they are lost. If it is important, he should keep good records. The forward integration of his carpentry trivia creates a long term common sense for carpentry, allowing him to improvise from his experience. The most important fixed things stay fresh via repetition.

 

The problem with memorizing trivia is what kind of the common sense results if it is forward integrated? Such data is scattered across the boards and does not really integrate to anything specific. Maybe the common sense of all this learning is knowing how to research and find the data at the library, internet, or personal records, if it is needed again.

 

Females appear to have better long term memories. They remember all the birthdays, special occations, etc., better than men, over the long haul. Before writing and books, females were probably the cultural memory capacitance who taught traditions to the children. This stronger data based memory is an aspect of a female's need for perfection. The perfection need, in turn, is connected to providing security for herself and her children.

 

A man's natural nature is based less on perfection but more on completeness. The sexual drive of men is less based on creating security as it is on satisfying desire. His brain is suppose to forward integrate a wide range of exerience to create wisdom and ingenuity from all his desire impulses for experience. This data provides the matrix for the ever changing needs of environmental adaptation and for progressive change. The lion's share of inventions stem from men because of this forward data integration working in conjunction with the desire impulse. Innovation removes the old and brings in the new.

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I think one of the problems within many memory studies is equating memorizing data and trivia with intelligence.

 

As far as I know, it's one of the only standarized and consistent methods, but yes, I don't like it much either.

 

 

The problem with memorizing trivia is what kind of the common sense results if it is forward integrated? Such data is scattered across the boards and does not really integrate to anything specific. Maybe the common sense of all this learning is knowing how to research and find the data at the library, internet, or personal records, if it is needed again.

 

This is why there are smart idiots. I believe it was William Percy who said, "You can get all "A's" in school, but still fail at life." This is that common sense or "street smart" way of learning rather than just memorization, which almost every person can do. Comprehension and problem solving should be the true tests of intelligence, which doesn't seem to be the case.

 

Females appear to have better long term memories. They remember all the birthdays, special occations, etc., better than men, over the long haul.

 

I'll need to see a link for this one. I think this is so not because females are programmed that way, but because it's just something they do for consistency. I do believe this would be an imperfect example because it's not an accurate average. I know men who have the same knack for birthday's and dates as women do, and even some with a better ability. Memorizing dates from history works the same way, and you can't necessarily that women are better at that; I, for one, think it's a false stereotype that women remember birthdays and special occasions and whatnot.

 

Before writing and books, females were probably the cultural memory capacitance who taught traditions to the children.

 

Women as teachers was more of a motherly thing, nothing to do with memory capacitance. And I always thought it was the wise elders who wrote the histories, most of which were probably men. Women taught because the men were busy providing for the family or tribe, in the simplest terms.

 

This stronger data based memory is an aspect of a female's need for perfection. The perfection need, in turn, is connected to providing security for herself and her children.

 

Not sure where you're getting your information...:confused:

 

 

A man's natural nature is based less on perfection but more on completeness. The sexual drive of men is less based on creating security as it is on satisfying desire. His brain is suppose to forward integrate a wide range of exerience to create wisdom and ingenuity from all his desire impulses for experience. This data provides the matrix for the ever changing needs of environmental adaptation and for progressive change. The lion's share of inventions stem from men because of this forward data integration working in conjunction with the desire impulse. Innovation removes the old and brings in the new.

 

you lost me, could you reiterate?

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I was using generalities with respect to males and females. There are always exceptions to the rule. Men look for completeness so they dwell on the 1-10% exceptions rather than consider the majority data. Woman will tend to go along with the consensus 90%, because the majority opinion is the most secure path.

 

These ideas may be original or may already exist. I developed them independantly by using a little common sense and logic. There is survival of the individual which is connected to our individual needs. Survival of the species is based on reproduction and sexuality. Since culture is an evolving aspect of the human species, the way culturally knowledge is processed by males and females should have a connection to male and female sexuality.

 

For a female the whole nesting procedure is needed to provide a secure place for herself and children. She is vulnerable during pregancy and her child is vulnerable until it grows up. This security need benefits by a fixed nest of knowledge. This is reflected by good memory of fixed data. She does not need to be exploring when she is vulnerable. instead it is natural for a woman to seek perfection, i.e., the perfect data (and behavior set) that provides security.

 

The male's sexuality is more connected to the daily (more or less) production of sperm. This daily production of sperm alters male hormone levels around desire almost daily. The natural impulse is sexual desire with many females. For the progressive needs of culture it is also sublimated and directed into all walks of life. Climbing Mt Everest is not driven by a need for security, but a desire to do something new. Explorers are not primarily motivated by concerned for life or limb, but are driven by desire for fame, fortune, altruism, knowledge, etc.

 

Male cultural desire is not suppose to be dammed up into a fixed structure of perfection because perfection is impossible to reach. Things will always change to the future. Men are meant to gather data for completeness allowing them a better ability to adapt to inevitable future change. This desire for completeness is a buffer layer around the female and children. It better allows the male to better control the ever changing environment to meet the security needs of his family.

 

Fixed data is fine if the environment remains fixed, but becomes a handicap if the environment begins to change. Men trying to think via the female nesting instinct is responsible for the suppression of knowledge. They may try to force things to stay the same. A lot of reseach on memory is trying to keep things the same.

 

Female's will adapt to the environmental adaptation that males provide. For example, females and children are the first to follow the latest fads because this provides cultural security. For the nesting male it provides insecurity and will be resited. For the natural or adaptive male, it adds to his completeness, allowing him better control over the future. He still may not go along if he is already looking beyond the present into the future.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The brains ability to recognize patterns is related to us via a physical response. There is a part of the reward center of our brains is stimulated when we recognize a pattern. The nature of the pattern and the situation in which you are in determine the physical response to the recognition.

 

With this said the brain does not need to actively remember and recall any specific event in order to recognize a pattern. The feeling you get when your brain recognizes a pattern that your active consciousness misses, would feel like intuition, and sometimes precognition.

 

It is commonly held that our brains let go the information that is not needed to survive regularly, but we leave it in our long-term memory for automatic retrival by our sense of pattern recognition.

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