Theories of forgetting- retrieval failure


Theories of forgetting: retrieval failure

  • People may forget information because of insufficient cues
  • When info is initially placed in memory, associated cues are stored at the same time
  • If these cues are not available at the time of recall, it may appear as if you have forgotten the info, but this is due to retrieval failure

Encoding specificity principle(ESP)

  • This is the idea that if a cue is to help us recall info it has to be present at encoding (when we learn something) and at retrieval (when we are recalling it)
  • If then the cues at encoding and recall are different, or even absent there will be some forgetting
  • Some cues are linked to the material- to-be-remembered in a meaningful way
  • Such cues are used in mnemonic techniques
  • Other cues are also encoded at the time of learning but not in a meaningful way
  • Two examples of this are context dependent forgetting (external cues) and state-dependent forgetting (internal cues)

Context-dependent forgetting

  • Godden and Baddeley studied deep sea divers to show context dependent forgetting
  • Procedure
    • The divers had to learn a list of words either underwater or on land and were then asked to recall the words, creating 4 conditions:
    • Learn on land- recall on land
    • Learn on land- recall underwater
    • Learn underwater- recall underwater
    • Learn underwater- recall on land
  • Findings
    • In two of these conditions the environmental contexts of learning and recall were the same, in the other two they were different
    • Accurate recall was 40% lower when the learning and recall…


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