Why do we forget?

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You walk into the kitchen with purpose, and then stand in the doorway wondering what you went in there to do. Who knows? Your mind is completely blank.

Memory loss isn't due to your age or your gender. It's due to interference.

 

Your brain works as a series of networks, with different areas communicating with each other at all times. When you're trying to remember something, your brain establishes a new network. Memory glitches occur when there's a break in that network. 

What causes the break? Interference, which impairs your ability to focus. Interference can be anything from your cellphone ringing to background chatter at a restaurant to your mind wandering.

Preventing Memory Loss

What can you do? Try to limit interference. You can't always shut off the world, but you can learn how to focus your attention on the task at hand. So if you go into the kitchen to write something down on your grocery list, don't answer your cellphone or let your mind wander to a meeting that morning.

You can also train your brain to recall information by practicing. Next time you go to the grocery store, don't make a list, and see how many items you can remember.

Retrieval Failure

Have you ever felt like a piece of information has just vanished from memory? Or maybe you know that it's there, you just can't seem to find it. The inability to retrieve a memory is one of the most common causes of forgetting.

So why are we often unable to retrieve information from memory. One possible explanation retrieval failure is known as decay theory. According to this theory, a memory trace is created every time a new theory is formed. Decay theory suggests that over time, these memory traces begin to fade and disappear. If information is not retrieved and rehearsed, it will eventually be lost.

Failure to Store

Sometimes, losing information has less to do with forgetting and more to do with the fact that it never made it into long-term memory in the first place. 

Motivated Forgetting

Sometimes, we may actively work to forget memories, especially those of traumatic or disturbing events or experiences. The two basic forms of motivated forgetting are: suppression, a conscious form of forgetting, and repression, an unconscious form of forgetting.

Remember that mental activities such as rehearsal and remembering are important ways of strengthening a memory, and memories of painful or traumatic life events are far less likely to be remembered, discussed, or rehearsed.

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