Why and how do we forget things? Elizabeth Loftus, one of today's most well-known memory experts, has identified four key reasons why individuals forget: retrieval failure, interference, failure to store, and motivated forgetting.
Retrieval failure happens when we try to remember something but can't because it hasn't been encoded into our long-term memory. For example, if I ask you what city is nearest the Pacific Ocean and you say San Francisco, that's a correct answer because information about cities is not stored in your brain but rather in your short-term memory where you can think about things while they're happening. If an hour later I ask you again, then you would probably say California because you could have forgotten that information after just a few minutes.
Interference is when you forget something because another event or conversation distracts you. For example, if I ask you what city is nearest the Pacific Ocean and you say California, that's an incorrect answer because I asked you a minute ago and you didn't have time to process that information before answering. In this case, the question itself caused you to forget because it distracted you from thinking about distances between cities and towns.
Failure to store means that you forgot because the thing you want to remember isn't stored anywhere in your brain.
Four Reasons Why We Forget Consider how frequently you forget something crucial. Retrieval failure occurs when you try to remember something but can't think of it. This may happen because the information was not important or could be caused by a variety of other factors such as lack of attention or stress. Interference is when you forget what you have already remembered because new information has intervened between you and the object of remembrance. For example, if you were studying for an exam and went out for lunch without writing down any notes, then when you returned you would likely forget what you had learned due to interference. Failure to store means that you remember some events but not others - this is known as selective remembering. Motivated forgetting happens when you decide to forget certain information so that you can make room in your brain for something more important. The best example of this is when you learn something new and feel compelled to forget it right away or risk being distracted by other thoughts. Your mind is only capable of storing a limited amount of information at any given time, which is why you need to choose carefully what you want to keep in memory and what you want to let go of.
Interference is a condition that causes individuals to forget from time to time. Some memories compete with and interfere with others. Interference is more likely to occur when information is substantially similar to other information already stored in memory. For example, if you were to listen to a lecture on geology today, it would be unlikely that you would completely forget what the speaker said yesterday. The reason is that much of what you heard yesterday will have been stored in memory along with today's presentation.
Another cause of memory loss is aging. Aging brains are less able to store new information or filter out old information that we don't need. As a result, we find ourselves struggling with memory problems as we get older. There are many ways to improve memory performance including using techniques such as meditation, learning something new, and having a positive attitude toward memory improvement.
Trace decay theory, interference theory, and cue-dependent forgetting are just a few of the hypotheses that explain why humans forget memories and knowledge over time.
One of the most prevalent reasons of forgetfulness is the inability to recollect a memory. So, why do we frequently fail to recover information from memory? The decay theory is one plausible reason for retrieval failure. Every time a new theory is developed, a memory trace is created, according to this theory. However, over time these traces will deteriorate, causing memories to disappear.
Another reason for memory loss is aging. As we get older, our brains shrink due to death of brain cells. This is called neurodegeneration and it is a common cause of memory loss in elderly people. Neurodegeneration may also cause feelings of confusion and difficulty finding words that start with the same letter (a condition called aphasia). Many other diseases and conditions can also cause memory problems. These include diabetes, thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, head injuries, drugs (such as sedatives or anti-depressants), alcohol abuse, and cancer.
How can I remember more? There are several techniques you can use to improve your memory. First, you should use your memory actively by doing things that require memory skills such as learning languages, playing games, watching movies, etc. Second, try to avoid forgetting activities by writing them down or installing reminders on your phone. Third, network with others, ask them questions, talk about topics that interest you both; this will help you stay alert and aware of important information.