When Memory Lapses
A. How Quickly
We Forget: Ebbinghaus's Forgetting Curve
- Earliest studies
of forgetting were done by Hermann Ebbinghaus
syllables (consonant-vowel-consonant, e.g., XOR,
LIM, WEP, etc.).
B. Measures of
- Retention: Proportion of
material which is retained or remembered
- Recall: Reproduce
information without any cues
- Recognition: Select
previously learned information from an array of
- Relearning: How long does
it take to relearn what you had previously learned?
C. Why We Forget
1. Ineffective Coding
2. Decay = memory traces fade with age
3. Interference Problem
= forgetting information because of
competition from other material
Interference: New learning interferes
with old learning (NIO)
Interference: Old learning interferes
with new learning (OIN)
Freud (1901): Described a process he called "repression"
began reporting to their therapists the recollection of
memories, long buried from the past, which claimed
experiences of sexual abuse, traumas, and even the
witnessing of murder. These memories were considered to
be "repressed" as Freud suggested.
- Parents, teachers, and others were
identified as the abusers and some were tried before the
courts and convicted.
- As the years went on, multiple
questions arose whether repressed memories actually
exist and, if so, which of those reported were factual.
- Some memories were legally
discredited, e.g., George Franklin case
- Argument that some of these
memories were suggested by therapists
- Elizabeth Loftus: research
showing some false memories can be implanted
- PTSD patients show too many
- Bottom line
- abuse is more widespread than we
used to think.
- "Repressed memories" are forms of
"believed-in imaginings," that is, even if not
factually true, the person reporting them believes
them to be true
- Therapists and others (e.g.,
police) need to be very careful not to suggest that
there are buried memories