From forgetting where you left your keys to forgetting to return a phone call, memory failures are an almost daily occurrence. Forgetting is so common that we typically rely on numerous methods to help us remember important information such as jotting down notes in a daily planner or scheduling important events on your phone’s calendar.
As you are frantically searching for your missing car keys, it may seem that that the information about where you left them is permanently gone from your memory. However, forgetting is generally not about actually losing or erasing this information from your long-term memory. 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.
The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve:
Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus was one of the first to scientifically study forgetting. In experiments where is used himself as the subject, Ebbinghaus tested his memory using three-letter nonsense syllables. He relied on such nonsense words because relying on previously known words would have made use of his existing knowledge and associations in his memory.
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