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Measuring Memory and Remembering:   Forgetting

Measuring Memory and Remembering: Forgetting

Author: Jocelyn Starkey

Identify the causes of forgetting information.

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Measuring Memory and Remembering: Forgetting

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Hello. Welcome to our lesson on Measuring Memory and Remembering-- Forgetting.

First, let's go over some basics. Memory is the mental system by which we receive, process, and retrieve information. Long-term memory is the part of that system where meaningful information is stored relatively permanently. Recall is the ability to reproduce that information with minimal external cues, and understanding how memory and forgetting work can help us to improve our memory.

When we lose or can't recall information we had previously learned, it is called forgetting. Forgetting usually occurs right after memorization, and the Curve of Forgetting is a graph that shows how much information is remembered after different lengths of time. And here, I'm going to draw a Curve of Forgetting graph.

So we have-- over here, it'll be percent remembered. And then down here will be time since learning-- since learning. We have our axes right here. And then up here would be 100%, and down here would be 0. And I'm going to do 1 day, 2 days, 6 days, and 31 days.

So immediate recall would be 100%, so that's the first plot on our graph here. And then we have 20 minutes, 1 hour, 9 hours, 1 day, 2 days, 6 days, and 31 days. And then let me connect the dots here. And then here we go.

So you can see that the Curve of Forgetting looks something like this. And this is in reference to nonsense syllables. So this is not necessarily when you're studying for a class, but when you're memorizing nonsense syllables. And it generally shows that most forgetting occurs within the first 30 minutes of learning. And there's a steep curve here that signifies how much information is lost or forgotten that it evens out and stays stable over about a month's time.

Original studies in forgetting were done by a man named Hermann Ebbinghaus. Let me put that up here for you-- Ebbinghaus. And he was plotting his forgetting or remembering of nonsense syllables. The Curve of Forgetting is not nearly so steep when information learned is meaningful, such as learning psychology facts for a test.

So why do we forget? It's thought that the most common reason for forgetting is encoding failure. This means that when taking information in, we don't encode enough of it to form a meaningful memory. One reason for encoding failure could be distraction. Studying in front of the television, or while texting, or chatting online can interrupt the encoding process, and it changes what you're focusing on. Fatigue can be another factor in encoding failure. Frequent, short study sessions free from distractions are most helpful in encoding information.

OK, so you've removed the distractions from your study space. Now, what is the best way to ensure you are encoding the information you're trying to learn? Rehearsal is a good way to increase your chances of remembering information. Repetition is another way to learn facts, such as phone numbers, addresses, directions, or other things that you want to memorize. To give yourself the best chance of recalling meaningful information or for something like a test, it's wise to look for connections between information while rehearsing it.

Today, we learned about forgetting or the inability to recall information that was learned. We looked at the Curve of Forgetting, that shows that forgetting often happens right after memorization. We learned that forgetting can be due to encoding failure or the failure to store enough information to form useful memories. It may happen due to distractions in the learning environment, and rehearsal and repetition our two methods for memorizing material for further recall.

Thank you for participating in today's lesson on Measuring Memory and Remembering-- Forgetting.

Terms to Know
Curve of Forgetting

A graph created by Herman Ebbinghaus that shows that people immediately begin forgetting large amounts of information up to 2 days after learning, then forgetting slows down between 6 and 31 days, after which, it remains relatively stable.

Encoding Failure

The inability to form a memory and store it in the long-term memory.


A way of keeping information in a person's short term memory, where the person says it to himself or herself and practices it, which puts it back into the short term memory for longer times.