Attempt An Essay On Forgetting

Forgetting or disremembering is the apparent loss or modification of information already encoded and stored in an individual's long-term memory. It is a spontaneous or gradual process in which old memories are unable to be recalled from memory storage. Forgetting also helps to reconcile the storage of new information with old knowledge.[1] Problems with remembering, learning and retaining new information are a few of the most common complaints of older adults.[2] Memory performance is usually related to the active functioning of three stages. These three stages are encoding, storage and retrieval.[2] Many different factors influence the actual process of forgetting. An example of one of these factors could be the amount of time the new information is stored in the memory. Events involved with forgetting can happen either before or after the actual memory process. The amount of time the information is stored in the memory, depending on the minutes hours or even days, can increase or decrease depending on how well the information is encoded.[3] Studies show that retention improves with increased rehearsal. This improvement occurs because rehearsal helps to transfer information into long-term memory[4] – practise makes perfect.

It is subject to delicately balanced optimization that ensures that relevant memories are recalled. Forgetting can be reduced by repetition and/or more elaborate cognitive processing of information. Emotional states are just one of the many factors that have been found to effect this process of forgetting.[3] As a disorder or in more severe cases this may be described as amnesia.

Forgetting functions (amount remembered as a function of time since an event was first experienced) have been extensively analyzed. The most recent evidence suggests that a power function provides the closest mathematical fit to the forgetting function.[5]

It is inability to encode, to store and retrieve the previously learned information from long-term memory over varying periods of times.


Failing to retrieve an event does not mean that this specific event has been forever forgotten. This could just mean the information was not encoded well. Research has shown that there are a few health behaviors that to some extent can prevent forgetting from happening so often.[6] One of the simplest ways to keep the brain healthy and prevent forgetting is to stay active and exercise. Staying active is important because overall it keeps the body healthy. When the body is healthy the brain is healthy and less inflamed as well.[6] Older adults who were more active were found to have had less episodes of forgetting compared to those older adults who were less active. A healthy diet can also contribute to a healthier brain and aging process which in turn results in less frequent forgetting.[6] Reviewing information in ways that involve active retrieval seems to slow the rate of forgetting. Paul Connerton stated that there are seven types of forgetting, which are repressive erasure, prescriptive forgetting, formation of new identity, structural amnesia, annulment, planned obsolescence, and humiliated silence.[7]


This article is incomplete. Please help to improve it, or discuss the issue on the talk page.(May 2016)

One of the first to study the mechanisms of forgetting was the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (1885). Using himself as the sole subject in his experiment, he memorized lists of three letter nonsense syllable words—two consonants and one vowel in the middle. He then measured his own capacity to relearn a given list of words after a variety of given time period. He found that forgetting occurs in a systematic manner, beginning rapidly and then leveling off. Although his methods were primitive, his basic premises have held true today and have been reaffirmed by more methodologically sound methods.[8] The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve is the name of his results which he plotted out and made 2 conclusions. The first being that much of what we forget is lost soon after it is originally learned. The second being that the amount of forgetting eventually levels off.[9]

Around the same time,[when?] psychologist Sigmund Freud theorized that people intentionally forgot things in order to push bad thoughts and feelings deep into their unconscious, a process he called "repression".[10] There is debate as to whether (or how often) memory repression really occurs[11] and mainstream psychology holds that true memory repression occurs only very rarely.[12]

Modern terminology divides motivated forgetting into unconscious repression (which is disputed) and conscious thought suppression. Psychogenic amnesia is another controversial diagnosis of retrograde amnesia without physical injury to the brain.


The four ways forgetting can be measured are as follows:

Free recall[edit]

Free recall is a basic paradigm used to study human memory. In a free recall task, a subject is presented a list of to-be-remembered items, one at a time. For example, an experimenter might read a list of 20 words aloud, presenting a new word to the subject every 4 seconds. At the end of the presentation of the list, the subject is asked to recall the items (e.g., by writing down as many items from the list as possible). It is called a free recall task because the subject is free to recall the items in any order that he or she desires.

Prompted (cued) recall[edit]

Prompted recall is a slight variation of free recall that consists of presenting hints or prompts to increase the likelihood that the behavior will be produced. Usually these prompts are stimuli that were not there during the training period. Thus in order to measure the degree of forgetting, one can see how many prompts the subject misses or the number of prompts required to produce the behavior.[13]

Relearning method[edit]

This method measures forgetting by the amount of training required to reach the previous level of performance. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus (1885) used this method on himself. He memorized lists of nonsensical syllables until he could repeat the list two times without error. After a certain interval, he relearned the list and saw how long it would take him to do this task. If it took fewer times, then there had been less forgetting. His experiment was one of the first to study forgetting.[13]


See also: Recall (memory)

For this type of measurement, a participant has to identify material that was previously learned. The participant is asked to remember a list of material. Later on they are shown the same list of material with additional information and they are asked to identify the material that was on the original list. The more they recognize, the less information is forgotten.[13]


The four main theories of forgetting apparent in the study of psychology are as follows:

Cue-dependent forgetting[edit]

Cue-dependent forgetting (also, context-dependent forgetting) or retrieval failure, is the failure to recall a memory due to missing stimuli or cues that were present at the time the memory was encoded. Encoding is the first step in creating and remembering a memory. How well something has been encoded in the memory can be measured by completing specific tests of retrieval. Examples of these tests would be explicit ones like cued recall or implicit tests like word fragment completion.[14] Cue-dependent forgetting is one of five cognitive psychology theories of forgetting. This theory states that a memory is sometimes temporarily forgotten purely because it cannot be retrieved, but the proper cue can bring it to mind. A good metaphor for this is searching for a book in a library without the reference number, title, author or even subject. The information still exists, but without these cues retrieval is unlikely. Furthermore, a good retrieval cue must be consistent with the original encoding of the information. If the sound of the word is emphasized during the encoding process, the cue that should be used should also put emphasis on the phonetic quality of the word. Information is available however, just not readily available without these cues. Depending on the age of a person, retrieval cues and skills may not work as well. This is usually common in older adults but that is not always the case. When information is encoded into the memory and retrieved with a technique called spaced retrieval, this helps older adults retrieve the events stored in the memory better.[2] There is also evidence from different studies that show age related changes in memory.[14] These specific studies have shown that episodic memory performance does in fact decline with age and have made known that older adults produce vivid rates of forgetting when two items are combined and not encoded.[2]

Organic causes[edit]

Forgetting that occurs through physiological damage or dilapidation to the brain are referred to as organic causes of forgetting. These theories encompass the loss of information already retained in long-term memory or the inability to encode new information again. Examples include Alzheimer's, amnesia, dementia, consolidation theory and the gradual slowing down of the central nervous system due to aging.

Interference theories[edit]

Interference theory refers to the idea that when the learning of something new causes forgetting of older material on the basis of competition between the two. This essentially states that memory's information may become confused or combined with other information during encoding, resulting in the distortion or disruption of memories.[15] In nature, the interfering items are said to originate from an overstimulating environment. Interference theory exists in three branches: Proactive, Retroactive and Output. Retroactive and Proactive inhibition each referring in contrast to the other. Retroactive interference is when new information (memories) interferes with older information. On the other hand, proactive interference is when old information interferes with the retrieval of new information.[16] This is sometimes thought to occur especially when memories are similar. Output Interference occurs when the initial act of recalling specific information interferes with the retrieval of the original information. This theory shows an astonishing contradiction: an extremely intelligent individual is expected to forget more hastily than one who has a slow mentality. For this reason, an intelligent individual has stored up more memory in his mind which will cause interferences and impair their ability to recall specific information.[17] Based off current research, testing interference has only been carried out by recalling from a list of words rather than using situation from daily lives, thus it's hard to generalize the findings for this theory.[15]

Decay theory states that when something new is learned, a neurochemical, physical "memory trace" is formed in the brain and over time this trace tends to disintegrate, unless it is occasionally used. Decay theory states the reason we eventually forget something or an event is because the memory of it fades with time. If we do not attempt to look back at an event, the greater the interval time between the time when the event from happening and the time when we try to remember, the memory will start to fade. Time is the greatest impact in remembering an event.[18]

Trace decay theory explains memories that are stored in both short-term and long-term memory system, and assumes that the memories leave a trace in the brain.[15] According to this theory, short-term memory (STM) can only retain information for a limited amount of time, around 15 to 30 seconds unless it is rehearsed. If it is not rehearsed, the information will start to gradually fade away and decay. Donald Hebb proposed that incoming information causes a series of neurons to create a neurological memory trace in the brain which would result in change in the morphological and/or chemical changes in the brain and would fade with time. Repeated firing causes a structural change in the synapses. Rehearsal of repeated firing maintains the memory in STM until a structural change is made. Therefore, forgetting happens as a result of automatic decay of the memory trace in brain. This theory states that the events between learning and recall have no effects on recall; the important factor that affects is the duration that the information has been retained. Hence, as longer time passes more of traces are subject to decay and as a result the information is forgotten.

One major problem about this theory is that in real-life situation, the time between encoding a piece of information and recalling it, is going to be filled with all different kinds of events that might happen to the individual. Therefore, it is difficult to conclude that forgetting is a result of only the time duration. It is also important to consider the effectiveness of this theory. Although it seems very plausible, it is about impossible to test. It is difficult to create a situation where there is a blank period of time between presenting the material and recalling it later.[15]

This theory is supposedly contradicted by the fact that one is able to ride a bike even after not having done so for decades. "Flashbulb memories" are another piece of seemingly contradicting evidence. It is believed that certain memories "trace decay" while others don't.[citation needed] Sleep is believed to play a key role in halting trace decay,[citation needed] although the exact mechanism of this is unknown.

Impairments and lack of forgetting[edit]

Main article: Memory disorder

Forgetting can have very different causes than simply removal of stored content. Forgetting can mean access problems, availability problems, or can have other reasons such as amnesia caused by an accident.

An inability to forget can cause distress, as with posttraumatic stress disorder and hyperthymesia (in which people have an extremely detailed autobiographical memory).

See also[edit]



External links[edit]

Look up forgetting in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
  1. ^Mondesire, S.; Weigand, P. (n.d.). "Forgetting Classification and Measurement for Decomposition-based Reinforcement Learning"(PDF). Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  2. ^ abcdMaddox, G. B.; Balota, D. A.; Coane, J. H. & Duchek, J. M. (2011). "The role of forgetting rate in producing a benefit of expanded over equal spaced retrieval in young and older adults". Psychology and Aging. 26 (3): 661–670. doi:10.1037/a0022942. PMC 3168729. PMID 21463056. 
  3. ^ abSangha, S.; Scheibenstock, A.; Martens, K.; Varshney, N.; Cooke, R. & Lukowiak, K. (2005). "Impairing forgetting by preventing new learning and memory"(PDF). Behavioral Neuroscience. 119 (3): 787–796. doi:10.1037/0735-7044.119.3.787. PMID 15998200. 
  4. ^Wayne, W. & McCann, D. (2007). Psychology: Themes & Variety 2nd Canadian ed. Nelson Education Ltd: Thompson Wadsworth Publisher. ISBN 978-0-17-647273-3. 
  5. ^John T. Wixted; Shana K. Carpenter. "The Wickelgren Power Law and the Ebbinghaus Savings Function"(PDF). Psychological Science. Retrieved August 31, 2016. 
  6. ^ abcSzabo, A. N.; McAuley, E.; Erickson, K. I.; Voss, M.; Prakash, R. S.; Mailey, E. L.; Kramer, A. F.; et al. (2011). "Cardiorespiratory fitness, hippocampal volume, and frequency of forgetting in older adults". Neuropsychology. 25 (5): 545–553. doi:10.1037/a0022733. PMC 3140615. PMID 21500917. 
  7. ^Paul Connerton. (2008) "Seven Types of Forgetting". pp. 59–71
  8. ^Murre J.M.J., Dros J. (2015) "Replication and Analysis of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve". PLOS ONE 10(7): e0120644. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0120644
  9. ^Hockenbury, Sandra. (2010)
  10. ^"Memory: Forgetting". Spark Notes. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  11. ^McNally, R.J. (2004). "The Science and Folklore of Traumatic Amnesia". Clinical Psychology Science and Practice. 11 (1): 29–33. doi:10.1093/clipsy/bph056. 
  12. ^"Repressed Memories and Recovered Memory Therapy". Jan Groenveld. 
  13. ^ abcChance, Paul (2014). Learning and behavior (Seventh ed.). Jon-David Hague. pp. 346–371. ISBN 1-111-83277-3. 
  14. ^ abCraik, F. M., & Rose, N. S. (2011). Memory encoding and aging: A neurocognitive perspective. Neuroscience And Biobehavioral Reviews
  15. ^ abcdMcLeod, Saul. "Forgetting". Simply Psychology. Retrieved 1 May 2014. 
  16. ^Underwood, B.J. (1957). 'Interference and forgetting' in Psychological Review
  17. ^"Forgetting". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 90 (13): 794. 1964. PMC 1922558. PMID 20327804. 
  18. ^"The Decay Theory of Forgetting". 

Forgiving and Forgetting

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Forgiving and Forgetting “You might forgive, but forgetting is not always possible.”
There are many different responses to this statement, and different
people hold different opinions, both for and against it. I agree with
the statement, because Christians are taught that “to sin is human, to
forgive is divine”, proving that it is difficult even to forgive,
never mind forget.

An argument in favour of the statement is, as human beings, we do not
possess the capability to completely wipe out memories from our minds,
no matter how hard we may try. Also, memories involving pain and
suffering are nearly always fresh in our minds, and it is the thoughts
of this kind that we are told to forget, which is extremely difficult,
and very rarely possible.

In addition, some sins are so serious that to simply forgive and
forget is not an option. Even Jesus himself enforced this point, when
he told his disciples that one of them was going to betray him.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Forgiving and Forgetting." 14 Mar 2018

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used the words “it would have been better for this person had they
never been born,” which may sound a cruel thing to say, but what Jesus
really meant was that it was going to be difficult to forget what
Judas was about to do to him.

Another point strongly agreeing with the statement is, human beings
can learn from their mistakes, and if sins and crimes were erased from
our memories we would never learn. This is true, as we are not
perfect, and we need to learn from our mistakes in order to make
ourselves a better person.

On the other hand, it could be argued that forgetting is central to
the forgiving process, and true forgiveness involves being able to
move on and forget what was done in the past. If people keep bringing
up what has been done in the past, and dwelling on it, then this
suggests that forgiveness has not truly been granted, therefore,
reconciliation does not occur.

Also, by refusing to forget what has been done, a person becomes
consumed with regret, bitterness and anger, all of which are all
destructive characteristics resulting in their lives becoming focused
on mourning and revenge, and the motivation and ability to move on is
lost. Constantly reminding someone of past feelings is un-Christian

In conclusion, I believe that it is possible for a person to forgive,
but I agree that it is not always possible to forget what they have
done. Are we supposed to forget every time a person sins? Maybe we can
forget the odd venial sin, but what about mortal sins, like somebody
killing someone close to you? It is just not possible to forgive and
forget about somebody who commits mass murder such as Myra Hindley,
and we know that a victims mother, Anne West, can never forgive what
Myra Hindley did to her daughter, and cannot bring herself to say the
words, “forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who trespass against
us,” in the Lord’s Prayer.

As Christians we all do our utmost to forgive and forget – none of us
are without sin, let those who have committed no sin cast the first

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