ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Why do we forget?

Updated on March 20, 2012
Source

Rate of Forgetting

The first scientific study of forgetting was done in the 19th century by the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. Although his methods were crude by modern standards, he discovered one principle that has stood the test of time. Ebbinghaus found that after something is learned, the rate of forgetting is negatively accelerated; that is, the major proportion of forgetting occurs early in the period after learning takes place. His findings and subsequent research indicate that to reduce forgetting to a minimum, one should review material soon after learning it. The longer the wait, the less effective the review will be.

What is "forgetting"?

Forgetting is the inability to bring memories to consciousness. A traditional theory attributes forgetting to the decay of memory information with time, but modern psychology tends to regard interference from other memories as critical. Forgetting is viewed as an inability to retrieve stored information because other information "gets in the way".

Theories of Forgetting

After a person learns something, it is not forever available in his mind. Three main theories explaining why forgetting takes place have been put forward. The first theory, advanced mainly by psychoanalysts, states that forgetting is purposeful; that is, persons forget intentionally because they do not want to have the memory in their mind. As a result, unpleasant experiences tend to be less well remembered than pleasant experiences.

Most psychologists accept this theory only in part. For example, they say that a schoolchild is more likely to forget to do his homework than to forget to watch a favorite television program. It is also true that a person may be unable to recall highly unpleasant emotional experiences he has endured. However, the theory does not help explain a great deal of the ordinary forgetting that occurs in everyday life.

The second theory is sometimes called the theory of disuse. It states that forgetting occurs because the material is not used, just as muscles lose their effectiveness if they are not used. It is true that forgetting needs time to occur, so that the longer the material is not used, the greater the amount of forgetting.

However, research indicates that disuse of information over a period of time is not the only cause of forgetting. Other factors, such as what happens during the interim, are also . important. For example, two equal groups may learn the same chemical equations, after which the first group goes to sleep and the second group learns additional equations. If both groups are later tested on their memory of the original set of equations, it would be found that the first group's recall is better than that of the second group, which had to learn more material immediately after.

The third theory of forgetting, which is widely accepted by psychologists, holds that forgetting is the result of interference. In some cases the interference may come from experiences that occurred before the learning took place. This type of interference is known as proactive inhibition. For example, if a child has previously learned to spell the words "lean", "clean", "really", and "read", he may forget that "sheet", which has the same vowel sound, is not spelled "sheat." Perhaps slightly less important is retroactive inhibition, an interference that comes from subsequent experiences. An example of retroactive inhibition is that of the two groups learning the same chemical equations. The poorer performance of the second group is due to retroactive inhibition. Therefore one's experiences interact with both past and future experiences.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • cwarden profile image

      cwarden 

      7 years ago from USA

      Very interesting hub. Thanks!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)