Introduction to Forgetting and Other Memory Problems

What you’ll learn to do: explain and give examples of forgetting and memory failure

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All of us at times have felt dismayed, frustrated, and even embarrassed when our memories have failed us. Our memory is flexible and prone to many errors, which is why eyewitness testimony has been found to be largely unreliable. There are several reasons why forgetting occurs. In cases of brain trauma or disease, forgetting may be due to amnesia. Another reason we forget is due to encoding failure. We can’t remember something if we never stored it in our memory in the first place. In this section, you’ll learn about seven memory errors that also contribute to forgetting.

Sometimes, information is actually stored in our memory, but we cannot access it due to interference. Proactive interference happens when old information hinders the recall of newly learned information. Retroactive interference happens when information learned more recently hinders the recall of older information. Let’s hope you don’t forget these new things you learn!

Learning Objectives

  • Compare and contrast the two anterograde and retrograde amnesia
  • Examine common memory errors (such as transience, absentmindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestibility, bias, persistence, and interference)
  • Describe the unreliability of eyewitness testimony
  • Explain the misinformation effect


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