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Memory decoded part 1 : Why do we forget?

Memory decodedReading Time: 4 minutes

Ever felt a little deceived by yourself when giving a test and having to forget a topic which you had studied thoroughly.One feels helpless especially during these times. Memory is also quite complex to fully understand and grasp. But, the upside is research has helped making it easier. This means we know that why learning, forgetting or memorizing happens.

Even speaking scientifically there are many grey areas which still require adequate clarity over the matter. Research in memory has led to evolving methods to study rather efficiently, help treat Amnesia, Alzheimer, Parkinson and Training. 

When we talk of memory we broadly concern ourselves with two factors,

  1. Memorizing

  2. Forgetting 

From academic point of view the former suggests ability (if one calls it ability) to recall or recognize information that is already processed. The latter seems to hinder our most important cognitive function of recognizing or recalling information as and when we please. 

 

Off course we would want to remember everything and not forget anything. This feat has been achieved by a few, to give an example, Kim Peek suits the description. A Savant who could read a book in just one hour. He remembered everything he read. But Kim was a genius with a split brain.

Since the article’s title is Why do we forget?, we shall stick to why or what factors can make us forget where others can limit forgetting. 

Believe it or not forgetting is an intrinsic part of learning or remembering. Brain meaningless information easily. To state it simply brain seems to forget information which is less useful and keeps which we use often.

From point of view of giving exam, memory has often disappointed us when sitting and recalling in examination hall. 

Memory for a simplistic understanding can be divided into 2 types, 

  1. Long term memory

  2. Short term memory

 

From exam and other relevant information long-term memory is the point of discussion. Generally accepted view is that information with respect to time fades as time passes by. However, this viewpoint is credited much with.

 

Forgetting happens, because :

 

  • Interference,

Psychologists say that people tend to forget when people information currently being learned interferes with information which is already there. For example, you already know how to drive a bike but now, for a long time are driving a car. Then you probably have forgotten how to drive a bike. It may be that you would now need a little brush up before driving a bike.

  • We consciously choose to remember things rest we forget,

Act of choosing has importance when it comes to memory. It helps the mind direct effort to certain more relevant or important details of the subject matter. Retrieval inhibition is a phenomena where you remember details of information that you consciously made an effort to remember but forget other related details. 

Example, from a list of 50 names of cities if you try to remember 30 rest 20 you will forget.

  • Memory distortion or biases,

It occurs as and when we are presented with facts or details which were not known to us. We are programmed to view the world through “lens” ,  everyone has a different lens. We have these lenses which are biases.These biases also protects our very own existence (personality, beliefs etc).

People under interrogation tend to produce more just opinion of themselves than they usually are or would have been.

  • What is hard to remember, we simply choose to forget it,

Memory is linked to emotions and mood. We tend to forget things which have caused us great pain and suffering. These are repressed memories.  Freud, had argued that repressed memories are pushed into unconscious mind where they persists causing psychological problems. 

  • Memory reconstruction or False memories, 

Sometimes the case is such that we create memories rather than having experienced it. This can certainly be the case when eyewitnesses are called to give their testimony pertaining a case. It has been found that many a times eyewitnesses themselves are not aware of false memory reconstruction happening. 

You may ask why? This happens because many a times people fail to identify origin of such memories. To state it simply, many a times eyewitness will fail to discern source or origin from where memory would be coming. 

  • Mood congruence effect,

This essentially mean even mood effects are memory. Mood serves as retrieval cue. We are more likely to remember things when we are in good mood. Also, we are likely to remember a positive information in good mood and similarly as negative information in bad mood. 

You can understand it as, if you had a bad day you are most likely to remember all the bad things that had happened to you. 

Memory is funny but it is very useful. Honing it, is a challenge. Practice and training can help improving memory to an extent. At best memory works as sequence or array of information not as isolated bits information. 

Read Also, Memory Hacks

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Good luck!!