Module 26 Page 1
Forgetting, Memory Reconstruction and Improving Memory
"If we remembered everything, we should on most occasions be as ill off as if we remembered
nothing" - William James
Anterograde Amnesia - an inability to form new memories, but can recall past
Retrograde Amnesia - an inability to retrieve information from one's past
With these conditions, many can learn nonverbal tasks. However, they do these things with no
awareness of having learned them.
Alzheimer's patients lose their explicit memories for people and events, but can form new
implicit memories. Such cases confirm we have two distinct memory systems controlled by
different parts of the brain.
• Age can effect encoding efficiency
• German Philosopher Hermann Ebbinghaus concluded "the course of forgetting is initially
rapid, then levels off with time."
• Our explanation for these forgetting curves is a gradual fading of the physical memory
• We store in long-term memory what's important to us or what's been rehearsed
• Older adults are more frequently frustrated by tip-of-the-tongue forgetting
• Retrieval problems occasionally stem from interference and from motivated forgetting
Proactive Interference - the disruptive effect of prior learning on the recall of new information
Ex. Buying a new combination lock, the old combo may interfere.
Retroactive Interference - the disruptive effect of new learning on the recall of old information
Ex. If new lyrics are sung to an old song, you may have trouble remembering the original words.
The hour before sleep is a good time to commit information to memory, though information
presented in the seconds before sleep is seldom remembered. Module 26 Page 2
• As we process information we filter, alter or lose much of it. Was the information intact
but not retrievable because it was embarrassing to remember?
• Freud proposed that we repress painful memories to protect our self-concept and to
minimize anxiety. The repressed memory lingers and can be retrieved later by a cue or
• We may have the intrusive memories of the very traumatic experiences we would most
like to forget
Memory Construction Errors
• Every time we replay a memory, we replace the original with a slightly modified version
Misinformation and Imagination Factors
Misinformation Effect - incorporating misleading information into one's memory of an event.
So powerful it can later influence attitudes and behaviours. Even repeatedly imagining
nonexistent actions and events can create false memories. Misinformation and imagination
effects occur partly because visualizing something and actually perceiving it activate similar
Source Amnesia - Attributing to the wrong source an event we have experience, heard about,
read about, or imagined. Along with mis