Why Our Memory Fails?



Forgetting things is part of our daily life. We all forget things and after a while or with some clue, we recall back the things we forgot, sometimes it takes much longer, or we never remember. The problem gets worse when we grow older. But why we forget?

In a recent article Kendra Cheery writes that forgetting so common part of our life and we rely on various methods to remember like “jotting down notes in a daily planner or scheduling important events on your phone’s calendar”.

Kendra explain further that “many factors can contribute to forgetting. Sometimes you might be distracted when you learn new information, which might mean that you never truly retain the information long enough to remember it later.”

Forgetting typically involves a failure in memory retrieval. While the information is somewhere in your long-term memory, you are not able to actually retrieve and remember it.

– Kendra Cherry in Verywellmind

According to Dr. Saul McLeod forgetting involves short-term and longer-term memory losses.

Forgetting information from short term memory (STM) can be explained using the theories of trace decay and displacement.

Forgetting from long term memory (LTM) can be explained using the theories of interference, retrieval failure and lack of consolidation.

– Dr Saud McLoad in SimplyPsychology

The trace decay theory of forgetting

Kendra reminds us that the idea of memories loss over time is hardly new. “Sometimes it might seem that information has been forgotten, but even a subtle cue can help trigger the memory”.

Trace theory proposes that the length of time between the memory and recalling that information determines whether the information will be retained or forgotten. If the time interval is short, more information will be recalled. If a longer period of time passes, more information will be forgotten and memory will be poorer.

– Kendra Cherry in Verywellmind

Interference Theory

Kendra explains that “It is difficult to remember what happened on an average school day two months ago because so many other days have occurred since then. Unique and distinctive events, however, are less likely to suffer from interference. Your high school graduation, wedding, and the birth of your first child are much more likely to be recalled because they are singular events—days like no other.”

According to interference theory, forgetting is the result of different memories interfering with one another. The more similar two or more events are to one another, the more likely interference will occur.

– Kendra Cherry in Verywellmind

“Forgetting is simply a part of life. Numerous theories explain how and why we forget. In many situations, several of these explanations might account for why we cannot remember. The passage of time can make memories more difficult to access, while the abundance of information vying for our attention can create competition between old and new memories. Still, we can work to become better at recalling information.”