Cognitive Psychology - Theories of forgetting

Notes based on theories of forgetting including:

  • Cue dependent forgetting (context and state dependent forgetting)
  • Evaluation of cue dependent theory of forgetting
  • Trace decay theory of forgetting
  • Interference theory
  • Displacement theory
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Chelsea Russell.…read more

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Cue dependent forgetting.
· Explains the failure of memory as an access problem.
· The information is there, we try different ways to access
information but it is only when the correct way is tried that
the memory is found.
· We cannot access the memory until the right cue is used.
· When we encode a memory we store information that
occurred around it such as the way we felt and the place
we were in.
· If we cannot remember it may be because we are not in a
similar situation to when the memory was stored.
· Tip of the tongue phenomenon (Brown and McNeill 1966)
­ knowing that a memory exists but temporarily being
unable to recall it.…read more

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Context dependent forgetting.
· If we are not in the same situation as then we encode
information we may not be able to access the memory
easily. This explains why revisiting places after many
years triggers memories of being there.
· Godden and Baddeley (1975) demonstrated how divers
recalled 50% fewer words when they were asked to recall
them in a different environment than that they learnt in.
Without the same conditions being reinstated, the divers
forgot the words.
· Schab (1990) found that the smell of chocolate can be a
strong cue to aid recall.…read more

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State dependent forgetting.
· When we learn information we encode details about our
emotional and physical state at the time.
· If we wish to recall the memory, state cues may not be
present, making it difficult to remember.
· Miles and Hardman (1998) used aerobics exercises to
produce a physiological state to test state dependent
recall. They concluded that aerobic exercise did have a
significant positive effect on recall when used as a state
cue.…read more

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Evaluation of cue dependent theory of
Advantages Disadvantages
· Anecdotal evidence for cue · Most supporting evidence is
dependent forgetting. from laboratory experiments
· Godden and Baddeley (1975) so evidence could be criticised
demonstrated cue dependant
forgetting in natural environments. for being unrealistic and not
· A meta analysis was conducted by
representative of real life
Smith and Vela (2001) and they forgetting.
found that reinstatement of context · Reliability of Godden and
across all studies did play an Baddeley's findings could be
important part in remembering.
questioned because there was
· The theory cannot be refuted as it
would prove impossible to tell a lack of experimental control.
whether a memory is inaccessible or · Most of the lab research
whether it is lost. cannot tell whether what is
being provided in the study is
a state or context cue.…read more

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Trace decay theory of forgetting.
· This theory suggests that learning causes a physical
memory trace called an `engram'.
· This memory is reinforced through repetition which
strengthens the engram, if it is not reinforced the trace will
weaken and decay.
· It is a problem of availability because once the memory
has decayed it is lost forever.…read more

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