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The Trace Decay Theory of Forgetting
This is a theory of forgetting in short term memory. The theory suggests that learning causes
a physical change in the neural network of memory system, creating a memory trace or
engram. If the memory trace is not reinforced by practise it will simply weaken and decay,
causing forgetting to occur.
The trace decay theory of forgetting is supported by the study by Peterson and Peterson
The nature of shortterm memory (STM)
Peterson and Peterson (1959) set out to investigate the duration of STM when no rehearsal
was allowed. Participants were to read nonsense trigrams and then had to count backwards
in threes starting from a very large digit number for a specified period of time
The results led to the conclusion that STM lasts no more than 20 seconds and without
rehearsal information fades quickly. This supports the Trace decay theory of forgetting.
Levels of Processing Model of memory
Craik and Lockhart (1972) wanted at o explain why some things are better remembered
than others. They suggested that how well a piece of information is remembered depends on
how it is processed.
They suggested that there are three types of processing...
1. Structural processing Physical structure e.g. shape of the letter
2. Phonetic processing Sound the word made e.g. Does the word `style' rhyme with
the word `pin'?
3. Semantic processing Meaning of the word e.g. Is pancake a form of transport?
Craik and Tulving (1975) provided supporting evidence for the levels of processing model.
They conducted an experiment where participants were given questions about common
nouns and asked to recall them. They found that words processed at a semantic level were
more likely to be recalled and words processed at a structural level were less likely to be
The Cue Dependent Theory of Forgetting
This is a theory of forgetting in long term memory (LTM) proposed by Tulving (1974). It
states that we cannot access the memory until the correct cue is used. When we encode a
new memory we also store information that occurred around it, such ad the way we felt and
the place we were in. If we are in a different state or context, Tulving argued we a less likely
to remember, resulting in cuedependent forgetting.
Tulving argued that the cues that trigger memories fall into two categories...
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External cues are things in the environment when we were learning and which act as
cues to help us remember. These led to context dependent memory.
2. Internal cues are things in our mind when we were learning and our physical state when
learning, which act as cues to help us remember. These lead to state dependent
The cue dependent theory of forgetting is supported by Godden and Baddeley deepsea
diver study (1975).…read more