Last updated: June 20, 2019
Topic: Essay database
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Memory and forgetting


In Psychology, memory is defined as the process by which people and other organisms encode, store, and retrieve information (Roediger, 2005). Research has it that memory is not stored in just one specific area of the brain. Researchers have even failed to identify specific sites though there are certain brain areas that are critical for memory to function. (Toga, 2005).

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With countless information to process all through our lives, it would be impossible to remember everything. But what really causes forgetting? Allan D. Baddeley (1999) wrote that there are two traditional theories of forgetting:

One theory argues that the memory trace simply fades or decays away; … the second suggests that forgetting occurs because memory traces are disrupted or obscured by subsequent learning, in other words forgetting occurs because of interference. (p.119).

The theory of decay says that when we learn information memory leaves traces in the brain and disintegrates over time. Though the theory of decay has been the oldest idea for forgetting, there are some problems that would not put much confidence to the theory. For instance, memory recovers over time. A memory that may be forgotten at a certain point may just actually be retrieved over time. The theory of interference explains that forgetting is caused by interference from activities and events that occur over time. It’s either a previous learning or experience interferes with our capability to adapt new information, or a new learning interferes with our ability to recall previous information.

Memory can be tested only by recall. Whenever our performance falls short, we cannot assume that the memories we are trying to recall have not been registered (Arnold, 1984, p. 203). But there are techniques that can improve one’s memory. These techniques are called mnemonic devices. These are used to recode information that are easy to remember. Common types of mnemonics are Method of Loci, Pegword Method and PQ4R.


Baddeley, A. D. (1999). Essentials of human memory. Hove, England: Psychology Press.

Arnold, M. B. (1984). Memory and the brain. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Roediger, H. L. (2005). Memory (psychology). In Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD].

Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation.


Toga, A.W. Brain. (2005). In Microsoft® Encarta® 2006 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft