AP Psychology
Unit 2: Cognition
Remembering & Forgetting Theories

Weiten Ch 7
Myers Ch 8

Ebbinghaus Curve

Hermann Ebbinghause conducted the first study of forgetting, discovered the FORGETTING CURVE.

His forgetting curve asserted that most forgetting happens right after learning something --> BUT that might have been because he was memorizing nonsense syllables --> MEANINGFUL information has a MUCH SHALLOWER curve.

Forgetting Theories

Ineffective coding – PSEUDOFORGETTING is when we never learned something in the first place, usually due to INATTENTION

Elapse of time theory – DECAY THEORY – memory fades with time. The decay is happening in the physiological mechanisms responsible for memories. DOES NOT SEEM TO EFFECT LONG TERM MEMORY AS MUCH --> PASSAGE OF TIME DOES NOT SEEM TO BE AS IMPORTANT AS WHAT HAPPENS DURING THAT TIME --> Which is what we call INTERFERENCE

Interference effects – negative impact of competing information is why people forget. Highest interference occurs with SIMILAR information.

  • Retroactive inhibition (retroactive interference) – occurs when new information impairs the retention of previously learned information.
  • Proactive inhibition (proactive interferences) – occurs when previously learned information interferes with the retention of new information.

Retrieval failure – failure to remember something that you later are able to remember

  • Encoding specificity principle – when retrieval cues and encoding of information does not match
  • Transfer-appropriate processing – occurs when the initial processing of information is similar to the type of processing required by the subsequent measure of retention

Motivated forgetting – FREUD argued that people WANT to forget some things.

  • Repression – keeping distressing thoughts and feelings buried in the unconscious

Zeigarnik effect - the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about an objective that was once pursued and left incomplete. The automatic system signals the conscious mind, which may be focused on new goals, that a previous activity was left incomplete. It seems to be human nature to finish what we start and, if it is not finished, we experience dissonance--> “Just one more turn…”

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