Retrieval failure (explanations of forgetting)

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  • Retrieval failure
    • Key assumptions and features
      • It is known as the tip of the tongue phenomenon.
      • According to this theory your memory uses cues.
        • Cues are anything that acts as an aid to retrieve something from memory.
        • Types of cues
          • CONTEXT CUES
            • If the relevant environment was present when learning took place are missing when recall occurs- known as CONTEXT-DEPENDENT FORGETTING.
            • Also known as external cues
            • Using the environment
          • STATE CUES
            • Also known as internal physiological cues.
            • Occurs in the absence of psychological or physiological variables that act as an internal cue- known as STATE-DEPENDENT FORGETTING.
            • This is the categorisation of information.
            • E.g. fruit: apple, orange, pear, banana.
            • This is the organisation of information via certain factors.
            • E.g. fruit with pips: lemon, apple, range.
        • Forgetting occurs because the cues that were present when learning took place are missing at the time of the recall.
    • Key study
      • Godden and Baddley (1974)
        • Aim: to investigate if cues from the environment affect recall.
        • Method: an experiment was carried out with deep-sea divers who learned lists of words either on land or underwater. Recall of words was then tested in the same or a different context.
        • Results: those who learned and recalled in different contexts showed more than a 30% deficit compared to those who learned and recalled in the same context.
        • Conclusion: environmental context affects memory, and superior recall occurs when environmental conditions at learning and recall match.
        • Evaluation: -subject variables
    • Evaluation
      • Retrieval theory is able to explain findings that cannot be explained by the trace decay theory.
        • -Trace decay theory provides no explanation to why information can be recalled at a later date.
        • +Retrieval failure theory is able to explain this with the use of cues.
      • The retrieval failure theory is consistent with the levels of processing of memory. Deep processing involves making links with what we already know increasing the chance that the association will match a retrieval cue.
        • +With two theories backing up each other, it shows reliability.
        • The lack of consolidation and trace decay theory both believe that we make links.
          • However, they believe that they make links between neurons and this forms a memory not a cue.
          • Trace decay doesn't account for deep processing, they believe a memory is formed on one level only.
      • It has been scientifically tested in controlled conditions.
        • So does trace decay and the lack of consolidation theory.
        • This is unlike the motivated forgetting theory which uses non-experimental conditions.
      • The use of scientific  experiments produce demand characteristics and rarely reflect the function of memory in real-life situations.


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