Psychology in Action

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B. Why Do We Forget? Five major theories have been offered to explain why forgetting occurs: decay theory, interference theory, motivated forgetting, encoding failure, and retrieval failure. The decay theory proposes that memory deteriorates over time while interference theory suggests forgetting occurs when there is competing information. Retroactive interference occurs when new information interferes with the learning of old information and proactive interference occurs when old learning interferes with the learning of new information. The motivated forgetting theory proposes that we may forget or inhibit the retrieval of information that may be unpleasant, painful, or embarrassing. Encoding failure theory may contribute to information never being encoded from STM to LTM and thus forgotten. Retrieval failures may also contribute to the inability to recall information that is stored in LTM. (Process Diagram 7.3). Psychology at Work: Key Factors in Forgetting – Four important factors that help prevent forgetting include: (1) the misinformation effect is the distortion of a memory by misleading post-event information, (2) source amnesia is a result of confusion or misattribution regarding the actual occurrence of an event, (3) the sleeper effect is a tendency to initially discount unreliable sources and later consider it trustworthy because the source was forgotten, and (4) the information overload . Forgetting is greatest when students use massed practice or “cramming” rather than distributed practice with breaks in between learning. Gender and Cultural Diversity: Cultural Differences in Memory and Forgetting The work of Ross and Millson (1970) used college students from the United States and Ghana and discovered that the Ghana students were better at memory testing for themes in stories presented aloud. Wagner (1982) found that previous experience plays a part in facilitating memory recognition. It appears that STM is not affected by cultural factors but that a person’s culture provides background of experience and strategies for remembering factors specific to that culture. III. Biological Bases of Memory A. How Are Memories Formed? - The biological aspects of memory include neuronal and synaptic changes, hormonal influences, and structures in the brain. Changes in the dendrites occur from repeated reverberating circuits. Hormones produced during stress or excitement, such as epinephrine and cortical play a significant role in memory. These hormones affect areas of the brain structures in the limbic system including the amygdala, hippocampus, cerebral cortex, and other parts of the brain. Hormonal changes during a Instructor’s Resource Guide Chapter 7            Page   215
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heightened state of emotions may produce a vivid image surrounding the event as in the phenomenon known as flashbulb memories .
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