Unit 1 | Cognitive Forgetting (Edexcel)

Trace decay etc

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  • Created on: 26-04-12 13:43
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Explanations for forgetting
Trace decay ­
A new memory engram is created when you learn something new (a physical change in the brain). If
you rehearse and maintain an engram then it will grown stronger and become a long term memory. If
you do not maintain an engram then it will decay and the memory will be forgotten.
When an engram is first created it is `fragile', but further learning or rehearsal makes the engram
more `solid' and less likely to be destroyed.
Studies ­
Strengths ­
There is physical proof that a trace is created in the brain (for example Penfield's work with
epileptic patients) ­ however there is no proof of a trace decaying
People with Alzheimer's seem to `lose' memories as opposed to having trouble recalling
them. This shows that there is a physical aspect to memory
Weaknesses ­
In studies of memory loss in the short term store, it is difficult to test whether or not the new
information is rehearsed. It is difficult to test whether the memory (trace) has decayed, or
cannot be recalled for another reason.
Some long term memories are resistant to being forgotten and can be remembered after a
long time. This shows that some memories retain their trace. Bahrick and Hall (1991) showed
that people could remember algebra from school years later, and with practice, can improve
it. This shows that the trace cannot have been lost.

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Cue dependent theory (Tulving 1975) ­
Tulving claims that there are two things necessary for recall:
A memory trace
A retrieval cue
Cue dependent theory is based around the belief that a memory trace can only be activated
selectively if there is a retrieval cue.
Tulving says, `we remember an event if it has left behind a trace and something reminds us of
He defines forgetting as, `the inability to recall something now that could be recalled on an
earlier occasion'.…read more



Great revision material :)

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