Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Confusion, Not Decay, Most Important In Forgetting Over Short Term

Date:
December 15, 2008
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Theories suggest that we forget when information simply decays from our memory (when too much time has passed) or when we confuse an item with other items that we have previously encountered (also known as temporal confusability). Psychologists investigated the two theories to pinpoint the main cause of forgetfulness over the short term. The results, reported in Psychological Science, reveal that temporal confusability, and not decay, is important for forgetting over the short term.

Even though forgetting is such a common occurrence, scientists have not reached a consensus as to how it happens. One theory is that information simply decays from our memory—we forget things because too much time has passed. Another idea states is that forgetfulness occurs when we confuse an item with other items that we have previously encountered (also known as temporal confusability).

Psychologists Nash Unsworth from the University of Georgia, Richard P. Heitz from Vanderbilt University and Nathan A. Parks from the Georgia Institute of Technology investigated the two theories to pinpoint the main cause of forgetfulness over the short term. In their study, the participants were presented with a “Ready” screen (on a computer) for either 1.5 seconds or 60 seconds. Following this, they were presented with a string of three letters and were instructed to remember them for a later test. But, before they were asked to recall the three letters, the volunteers were told to count backwards for various amounts of time (4, 8, 12 or 16 seconds).

The results, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal that temporal confusability, and not decay, is important for forgetting over the short term. The volunteers who had to count backwards for the longest amount of time were better able to recall the letters than volunteers who were asked to count backwards for a shorter time period. If decay was the culprit behind forgetting, the group that was asked to count backwards for a longer amount of time would have performed the worst during recall.

The authors conclude that “it is possible to alleviate and even reverse the classic pattern of forgetting by making information distinct, so that it stands out relative to its background”. These findings have very important implications not just for everyday memory use, but also for educational practices and for populations with memory problems, such as the elderly.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Unsworth et al. The Importance of Temporal Distinctiveness for Forgetting Over the Short Term. Psychological Science, 2008; 19 (11): 1078 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02203.x

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Confusion, Not Decay, Most Important In Forgetting Over Short Term." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081212153204.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2008, December 15). Confusion, Not Decay, Most Important In Forgetting Over Short Term. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081212153204.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Confusion, Not Decay, Most Important In Forgetting Over Short Term." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081212153204.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Food Addiction Might Be Caused By PTSD

Newsy (Sep. 18, 2014) New research shows that women who suffer from PTSD are three times more likely to develop a food addiction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

Corporal Punishment on Decline, Debate Renews

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Corporal punishment in the United States is on the decline, but there is renewed debate over its use after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins