Forgetting & Encoding Failure

Topic: Forgetting & Encoding Failure

Posted by: Susie

Key Terms:

  • Absent-mindedness: Inattention to details produeces encoding failure
  • Transcience: Storage decay over time
  • Blocking: Inaccessibility of stored information

  • Misattribution: Confusing the source of information
  • Suggestibility: The lingering effects of misinformation
  • Bias: Belief-colored recollections

  • Persistence: Unwanted memories


A good memory is helpful, but so is the ability to forget. Memory researcher Daniel Schacter established the seven ways our memories fail us - the seven sins of memory:
  • Three sins of forgetting: Absent-mindedness, transcience, and blocking
  • Three sins of distortion: Misattribution, suggestibility, and bias
  • One sin of intrusion: Persistence
Encoding Failure
One reason that we forget is because we fail to encode the information. So the information never entered the long-term memory. Encoding efficiency is affected by age, which explains age-related memory decline. The brain areas that are active when encoding new information are more responsive in young adults than in old adults.
Nevertheless, young or old, we are selectively attentive. We encode some information automatically, but other types of inormation require effortful processing. So without effort, many memories never form. For example, we have a hard time remembering how a real penny looks like because its details are not that critical or meaningful.

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