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Exploration Of Memory Essay

3356 words - 13 pages

Exploration of Memory

Forgetting is a common process that occurs near enough every day.
The general definition of forgetting is the inability to recall or
recognise something that has been previously learned. Forgetting
occurs in both short and long term memory, and several explanations
have been put forward as to why forgetting occurs. There are two main
theories concerning forgetting in long term memory.

The first explanation was the decay theory, this suggests that
information stored in memory can eventually fade away. There is an
assumption that a memory trace in our brain disintegrates over time
and so is lost. This idea of gradual deterioration comes with it's
criticisms.

There is much research evidence surrounding this explanation of
forgetting in long term memory. Lashley (1931) conducted some famous
experiments, with training rats and removing certain sections of their
brains; his research supports the view that long term memory may be
related to physical decay. Another classic and well known study was
conducted by Jenkins and Dallenbach (1924). They found that recall was
better if participants slept through the retention interval, this way
little information was entering their memory, and therefore
displacement could not have occurred. At night there was no
displacement and little forgetting - this illustrates that forgetting
during the day must be due to displacement and as a result cannot be
explained by the decay theory.

Although, this study cannot be relied upon as valid - Jenkins and
Dallenbach made a major methodical flaw in their experiment. The
independent variable was whether or not the participant slept during
the retention interval; the confounding variable was when the
participants were tested for recall. The problem is that both of these
variables occurred and the same time, and thus it is impossible to
tell whether better recall was due to sleep in the retention interval,
or the time of day when recall took place. It is, perhaps, also
necessary to point out that this study is not very realistic - the
information participants were asked to remember is not like it would
be in real life, and therefore the experiment lacks ecological
validity.

Further investigation into the decay theory, and extending Jenkins and
Dallenbach's work, was Hockey et al. (1972), this study found that
recall was better in the morning. This means that the original finding
can be explained in terms of the time when testing took place rather
than lack of displacement while asleep. Another criticism is that if
decay is a major explanation for forgetting then why is it that we
have so many long term memories? There is much evidence to suggest
that memories can be very long lasting (Bahrick et al.) , this evokes
the fact that decay is an unlikely explanation for most long...

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