Theories of Forgetting

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Mark Scheme


·         Cognitive explanations (decay, displacement)

·         Contextual explanations (circumstances of recall, state dependence)

·         Psychoanalytical explanations (denial, repression)

·         Physiological explanations (dementia)


·         Critical examination of evidence

·         Use of evidence to support or contradict explanations

·         Evidence relating to specific issues 

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STM - Decay Theory

·         Paths in the forest analogy

·         Engrams are made

·         Hebb (1949) engram is fragile, neurochemical and neuroanatomical, needs rehearsal

·         Peterson and Peterson (1959) interference 80% recall after 3 seconds, 20% after 18 seconds

·         Lacks ecological validity

·         Shows displacement more so

·         7+- 2 rule 

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STM - Displacement Theory

·         Limited capacity so overwriting occurs

·         Peterson and Peterson experiment

·         Shallice (1967) serial probe technique, memory better if present information quickly and the probe was early, i.e. memories could form after the probe and didn’t need to rewrite over others

·         Decay and displacement are interdependent, but displacement may be more useful in our understanding

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LTM - Decay Theory

·         Lashley (1931) brain damages rats, rats could no longer navigate mazes, this is hard to generalise, could have damaged other areas such as the visuo spatial sketchpad, ethical issues and hard to prove

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LTM - Interference

·         Proactive interference – previous learning affects later learning

·         Retroactive interference – later learning affects prior learning

·         Underwood and Postman (1960) word pairing, proactive interference, people could only remember the first stimulus word pair despite later learning a new one

·         Baddeley and Hitch (1977) rugby players, remembered the amount of fixtures proportional to how many they had played, showing it is not dacay (all had the same time to forget)

·         Ecologically valid 

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Cue - Dependent Memory

·         External cues = environment

·         Abernethy (1940) normal classroom and teacher in exams makes better results

·         Internal cues = mood (state dependent)

·         Goodwin et al (1969) durnk people had better memories when drunk of prior drunk experiences

·         Depression and memories

·         Eysenck (1998) this may be the main explanation for long term forgetting as situation affects the coding of memories

·         High ecological validity but hard to test repression 

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