Forgetting from:

Short term memory:

  • Decay (memeory trace fades)
  • Displacement (new material enters limited capacity store)

Long term memory:

  • Interference
  • Retrieval failure/cue dependent learning
  • Motivated forgetting (repression)

Paired associate learning- *** tested on link between two words

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Types of interference

Proactive Interference 

  • Works forward in time
  • Previously stored information interferes with an attempt to recall something new
  • Can only remember old information 

Retroactive Interference

  • Works backwards in time
  • Coding new information disrupts information sotred previously 
  • Only remember new information 

Interference is opposite to the name 

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Aim: Assess influence of retroactive interference on the memory of street names learned during childhood 

Findings: Positive association between number of time participants moved house outside neighbourhood and number of street names forgotten

Conclusions: Learning new patterns of names makes the recall of old ones harder- retroactive interference is able to explain forgetting in real life situations


  • there are extraneous variables (not controllable) which may alter results                  
  • Methodoloy- possible to conduct research on retroactive intereference in real life settings- mundane realism

Evaluating theory:

  • classic experiments were artificial
  • modern research shows that interference does affect ability to recall things
  • only explain forgetting of similar material
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Cue dependent forgetting

  • Information is not lost- we just lack cue/prompt
  • Mood can also affect remembering

Context dependent failure- lack of external cues (Abernethy + Godden and Baddeley)

State dependent failure- lack of internal cues (Overton + Darley)


After learning material, participants recalled it less well to an unfamiliar teacher in an unfamiliar environment - supports contect dependent failure- need external cues

Darley et al:

Participants who hid money when high could not recall where it was when not high, then could remember when high again

Evaluating cue failure:

  • Some psychologists think this is the main reason for LTM forgetting- but difficult to test
  • idea that 'deep processing' is a good way to learn- creates mulitple cues
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Types of LTM

Clive Wearing could not form new LTM memories:

  • No memory from events of the past
  • knew how to do different things
  • Could learn how to do things
  • Illustrates divide of how to do things and events from the past 
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Procedural Memory

  • Concerned with skills e.g. knowing how to tie a shoe lace
  • About remembering how to do something rather than knowing the rules of what to so
  • Typically acquired through repeitition and practice
  • Memory is implicit- less aware of these memories because they have become automatic
  • If you try to think too much about procedural memories it prevents you from acting them out- attention disrupts the well-learned, automatic procedure
  • Important memories are automatic so we can focus our attention on other tasks while performing these everyday skills
  • in the Cerebeilum part of the brain 
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Episodic Memory

  • Personal memories of events- includes contextual details plus emotional tone
  • Concerned with experiences- e.g. first day of school - can recall the time and place of such events as well as who was there
  • can also recall context surrounding the event such as what happened just before or after or why you were there
  • May also associate emotions felt at the time

They have three elements:

  • Specific details of the event
  • The context 
  • The emotion
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Semantic Memory

  • Shared memories for facts and knowledge
  • Memories may be concrete
  • Memories may relate:
    • to things such as the functions of objects
    • to what behaviour is apporpriate, such as social customs
    • to abstract concepts, such as mathematics and language

Semantic memories usually being as episodic memories because we acquire memories based on personal experiences

There is a gradual transition from episodic to semantic memories where the memory slowly loses its association to particular events, so the memory can be generalised

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