Essay on the Popular Theories of “Forgetting”
(a) Interference can create confusion between what is already in memory and new learning.
(b) Interference can actually cause the material in memory to be unlearned.
Thus, interference is of two types. One type of interference is called as retroactive inhibition, and other is proactive inhibition.
The interference that results from subsequent or interpolated activity is called as retroactive inhibition (R.I.) because subsequent activities interfere with the memory of something learned before.
Another kind of interference is known as proactive inhibition (P.I.) – In” it previous or antecedent activity interferes with memory of things learned after the activity.
To bring the study of interference effects into laboratory standard experimental designs called as paradigms have been used.
The following design might be used to measure the interfering effect or interpolated activity or retroactive inhibition in the laboratory.
If retroactive inhibition has occurred, then a comparison of the amount forgotten in the experimental and control condition will show more forgetting in experimental condition.
To study the interfering effects of an antecedent activity or proactive inhibition, we might use the following experimental design.
If proactive inhibition has occurred persons in the experimental condition will retain less than those in control condition.
ii. Retrieval Problems:
Forgetting also occur, especially in long term memory, due to retrieval problems.
Control ConditionLearn IRestMeasure of Retention I
Experimental ConditionLearn IILearn IIMeasure of Retention I
Control ConditionRestLearn IIMeasure of Retention II
Experimental ConditionLearn ILearn IIMeasure of Retention II
According to this explanation LTM is fairly permanent and information is not lost from it. The difficulty arises in getting access to the stored information and in pulling it out of the memory store. Forgetting occurs due to two reasons. (1) First, when information is not appropriately categorised it will be difficult to retrieve the information and hence forgetting will occur. (2) Second, if retrieval cues are not present, if the cues are not relevant to the material sought or if the wrong pans of the long term store are searched retrieval will fail and forgetting will result.
Emotional factors can also play an important role in the retrieval failures.
iii. Motivated Forgetting:
Motivated forgetting gives psychoanalytic interpretation to forgetting. It says that we forget because we want to forget. According to this theory forgetting is deliberate, it is intentional.
Freud presented this theory of forgetting in his classic book “The psychopathology of everyday life”.
Repression is one aspect of motivated forgetting, whereby some memories become inaccessible to recall because the way in which they relate to our personal problems. The inaccessibility is not due to disruptive changes. Memories remain there and can be retrieved in appropriate conditions.
The theory of repressions hold that memories are not recalled because of the anxiety they would produce or the guilt they might activate.
Freud charmingly analyses his own memory lapses to illustrate the forgetting of such associations. He forgets conversation he had with a man he disliked; he forgets the location of a shop because he had an argument with a family that lived in the building where the shop was located; he forget names, not because they themselves provoke displeasure but because they are associated in some way with anxiety arousing ideas; and so on through a wide range of retrieval failures.