Describe and evaluate the explanations of forgetting

HideShow resource information
  • Created by: Molly
  • Created on: 13-05-12 11:52

Describe and evaluate the explanations of forgetting

Memory is the way in which we encode, store and retain information. The reasons into why people forget information depends on the memory store it is being lost from. Cognitive theorists suggest there are different reasons for forgetting information from the long term memory store compared to forgetting information from the short term memory store. To understand why we forget, it's essential to differentiate between whether availability and accessibility is the reason why the memory is forgotten.

An explanation into forgetting information within the short term memory store is the Trace Decay theory. The decay theory assumes that memories have a physical or biological basis in the brain, and that encoding of memories involved a structural change in the brain. The physical representation of a memory is called a memory trace and this theory sees forgetting as a physical breakdown or decay of the memory trace.
Assuming that rehearsal does not take place, the mere passage of time will cause the memory trace to break down, which explains why forgetfulness increases over time. According to the trace decay theory, metabolic processes happen over time which the structural change to break down if it is not maintained through repetition.
Hebb argued that during the time when the memory trace is formed, it is fragile and timid. With learning and repetition the memory trace grows stronger until a constant trace memory is formed through neurochemical and neuroanatomical changes. According to the theory, short term forgetfulness happens because the active trace is disturbed.

P - A piece of research carried out by Shallice supported the trace decay theory.
E - Shallice found that presenting digits at a faster pace increased recall suggesting trace decay may be responsible for short term memory forgetting since the faster presentation meant the digits nearer the beginning had less time to decay before being tested.
C - Therefore supporting the theory of trace decay and that if information is not rehearsed then the passage of time will cause the memory trace to break down.

P - A piece of research carried out by Watkins et al supported the trace decay theory.
E - They asked participants to listen to and remember a list of words or hum and remember the list of words, before being asked to recall them. He found that participants who had been asked to hum recalled less words.
C - This supports the research done into trace decay and suggested that this task had prevented rehearsal and the memory trace had decayed due to this.

P - A major criticism of the trace decay theory is


Beth Tregale


This is a great help thanks :) :)

Similar Psychology resources:

See all Psychology resources »