The Psychology behind why we forget.

One of the most common things we experience in our daily lives is forgetting things, from forgetting our keys to not remembering to return a phone call. Forgetting is so common, many of us use reminders such as daily planners, digital notification to post it notes. But why does this happen, why do we forget?

Hermann Ebbinghaus

Well forgetting is not really loss of the information, but rather the failure to retrieve the info from our long term memory. Hermann Ebbinghaus who was the founder of the experimental psychology of memory. He’s three most well know theoretical discoveries are, the “Learning Curve”, “Forgetting Curve” and the “Spacing Curve”.

The Forgetting curve: The theory behind the forgetting curve is that memories or information decay overtime.

The Spacing Curve: Presents the theory that information that is learned and encoded over spaced intervals can be learned faster, and retained longer.

The Learning Curve: Is the theory that the rate of learning new information by repetition represented as a graph of the progress you learn and encoded that new data your in long term memory.

Two Types of Memory: We all have two types of memory, Short term memory which is regulated by the hippocampus is the means by which we store memory in a limited fashion. Long Term memory which is encoded for long term storage is passed from the hippocampus to the other brain structures where it is stored for retrieval much later.

Memory can also be effected by a process known as “Interference” in which other memories block the ability to recall a certain specific memory. Such a thing can also be self imposed, as in memory suppression of unpleasant traumatic experiences.  Displacement: Displacement is quite literally a form of forgetting when new memories replace old ones.

Now what was the point that I was trying to make???


Brown, J. Some Tests of the Decay Theory of ImmediateMemory. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. 1958;10: 12-21.

Boneau, C. A. (1998). Hermann Ebbinghaus: On the road to progress or down the garden path? In G. A. Kimble, & M. Wertheimer, (Eds.), Portraits of pioneers in psychology (volume 3), pp. 51-64. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

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