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Forgetting (retention loss) refers to apparent loss of information already encoded and stored in an individual's long term memory. It is a spontaneous or gradual process in which old memories are unable to be recalled from memory storage. It is subject to delicately balanced optimization that ensures that relevant memories are recalled. Forgetting can be reduced by repetition and/or more elaborate cognitive processing of information. Reviewing information in ways that involve active retrieval seems to slow the rate of forgetting.

Forgetting functions (amount remembered as a function of time since an event was first experienced) have been extensively analyzed. The most recent evidence suggests that a power function provides the closest mathematical fit to the forgetting function. [1]



One to study the mechanisms of forgetting was the German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. Using himself as the sole subject in his experiment, he memorized lists of three letter nonsense syllable words—two consonants and one vowel in the middle. He then measured his own capacity to relearn a given list of words after a variety of given time period. He found that forgetting occurs in a systematic manner, beginning rapidly and then leveling off. Although his methods were primitive, his basic premises have held true today and have been reaffirmed by more methodologically sound methods[citation needed].

Theories of forgetting

The four main theories of forgetting apparent in the study of psychology are as follows;

Cue-dependent forgetting

Cue-dependent forgetting (also, context-dependent forgetting) or retrieval failure, is the failure to recall a memory due to missing stimuli or cues that were present at the time the memory was encoded. It is one of five cognitive psychology theories of forgetting. It states that a memory is sometimes temporarily forgotten purely because it cannot be retrieved, but the proper cue can bring it to mind. A good metaphor for this is searching for a book in a library without the reference number, title, author or even subject. The information still exists, but without these cues retrieval is unlikely. Furthermore, a good retrieval cue must be consistent with the original encoding of the information. If the sound of the word is emphasized during the encoding process, the cue that should be used should also put emphasis on the phonetic quality of the word. Information is available however, just not readily available without these cues.

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