Humans logo

Remembering And Forgetting

by Nour Eddine Fecih about a month ago in science
Report Story

That's why information escapes you when you need it and returns when you don't

Remembering And Forgetting
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Imagine the following scene: While you are sitting to watch a series, you appear in the scene of a banquet full of delicious food, but what catches your attention is your favourite dish while the actors flock to eat it, drooling and then you remember that you ate this dish yesterday and some of it remained in the fridge, you stand amazed You go to the kitchen, the phone rings, and you answer, but you don't recognise the speaker's voice. As it resembles the voice of your neighbour, but it is similar to the voice of your aunt as well. She ends the call and calls out to your mother. You have to bring her the scissors. She remembers when you last used them to cut a piece of cardboard to put it under the shaky table leg in your room and then you put it on top of the table, you go To get him and do the job successfully, only to find yourself standing in the kitchen unable to remember what you wanted to do first!

This simple story dealt with different types of forgetting and remembering incidents. If you have experienced a similar incident before, do not worry, I am not the only one. In today's article, we'll explore why information suddenly disappears and reappears, and finally provides you with some tips to help you get a grip on your memories.

Why and how do we forget?

Before we explore some of the theories why we forget everything from a singer's name to your best friend's name completely missing from your mind, let's first see how memories are formed.

How are memories formed?

The formation of memories is associated with the hippocampus in the brain and is believed to be the main responsible for transferring information from short-term memory and converting it to permanent information in long-term memory, and memories are stored as electrical and chemical signals in the brain where neurons connect to each other in certain patterns called synapses and the process of remembering something What is the stimulation of these synapses?

How do we forget? Forgetting theories of short-term memory

  • Trace Decay Theory of Forgetting

This theory relates to the amount of time short-term memory can hold information, typically 15 to 30 seconds. After the storage period of time expires, the memory begins to scan the weakest information to store new information.

Researchers Donald Norman and Nancy Wa conducted an experiment to try to support this theory; Where they gave the participants a list of numbers to memorise and repeat, each time the time given to memorise decreased. Notice from the results that the shorter the time given, the more numbers the participants remembered.

One of the most important problems facing supporters of this theory and affecting its results is the weak ability of researchers to control events between learning or memorisation and information retrieval, and therefore they are unable to ascertain whether the length of the recall period or other influences actually affect the memory impairment.

  • Displacement from STM

This theory relates to short-term memory capacity being very limited as it can only store between 5 and 9 elements. This theory says that after the short-term memory becomes full, new information begins to dislodge the old.

Support for this theory came from experiments called "free-recall", where participants are read a list of words, separated by two seconds between the pronunciation of the word and the next word, and then asked to remember the largest number of words without giving importance to the order.

The results of the experiment reveal that the participants remember the words that are mentioned at the beginning and the end and forget the words that are read in the middle of the experiment.

How do we forget? Forgetting theories of long-term memory

  • Interference theory during memory

This theory was very popular in the early part of the last century, scientists at the time assumed that memories can interfere with what we have learned previously or what we will learn in the future, indicating that information in long-term memory, may become distorted or combined with other information as it is transmitted from memory short-term to long-term, which leads to distortion or disruption of memories and thus forgetfulness; This glitch can happen in two ways:

  • Proactive interference: This occurs when old information disrupts the ability to retain new information, such as learning to park in some way, and then you discover a new way to do it but no matter how hard you try, you become unable to learn it.
  • Retroactive interference: What's going on here is the opposite, as new information forgets an old piece of information you learned earlier.

The effect of interference is evident in the similar information.

  • Retrieval Failure

This theory indicates that all information is actually stored in long-term memory, but the problem we have is to retrieve it, including what is known as the tip of the tongue effect TOT - when you feel like you are about to remember something but you can't - and retrieving the stored information here depends on 3 things:

  • Context: Here one can retrieve the information by repeating the situation, such as re-arranging the events to remember what you wanted to get from the kitchen.
  • Status: related to external factors or to the person himself, such as being under the influence of a certain drug, or feeling very sleepy, and here he needs to change his condition to remember better, or for example, that you were not really hungry when you craved a plate of food and therefore did not mention a logical reason for your presence in the kitchen .
  • Signs and triggers: like when you go back to watching TV and the trailer for the series you've been watching appears that prompts you to remember what you wanted to do in the kitchen.

What do we forget? Biological causes of forgetfulness

  • Aging and its effect on memory

Here it is important to distinguish between normal memory impairment, which increases with age, and serious memory problems.

It is normal when:

  • Forget what day we are and remember it later.
  • Forgetting a word while speaking.
  • Losing something from time to time.
  • It can be dangerous and you should consult a doctor when:
  • Complete loss of awareness of the date, month, and year.
  • Persistent problems while trying to make a speech (forgetting nouns, vocabulary…).
  • Constantly losing things and not being able to find them later.
  • Depression and its effect on memory

    Forgetting in depression is associated with short-term memory; Since low levels of serotonin make a person less attention to new information, which impairs the formation of short-term memories, studies have shown that depression does not affect long-term memory nor the procedural memory responsible for motor functions.

    Chronic stress and its effect on memory

    Chronic stress occurs as a result of continuous stress for a long time, as stress leads to the secretion of stress hormones, which are considered useful in certain cases, helping us to escape or act quickly when exposed to danger, for example. But the excessive stress that leads to its continuous secretion, leads to the body being overwhelmed with it, with consequences ranging from high blood pressure, damage to muscle fibers and even damage to the brain and its cells, as chronic stress prevents the growth of neurons within the hippocampus, which leads to a weakening of memory.

    How do information and memories come back all of a sudden?

    A group of scientists working at the Bakeware Foundation for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has discovered a mechanism by which the brain acts when we remember something even though we weren't thinking about it, namely remembering an embarrassing thing you did 10 years ago while opening your wardrobe in the morning. The biggest role in remembering this embarrassing matter is attributed to the Ingram cells, which are, according to the study,

    “a group of neurons whose communication with each other encodes a memory through a specific pattern of their communication.”

    To explain the work of these cells in a simple way, let us apply the mechanism to our previous example: when you opened the closet in the morning, you saw an outfit you wore at a party last year, and then you remembered that you went to the party with your friend Amir. Amir had accidentally poured a glass of juice on his pants and I laughed, But that made you feel ashamed of yourself because you laugh at the tragedies of others, which reminded you that the same thing happened to you 10 years ago.

    Actually, memories are already in your brain and they are connected and connected to each other, and stimulating one leads to the activation of another, hence the unexpected information. Of course, it doesn't have to be embarrassing or as dramatic.

    • Eat healthy

    Cut or reduce sugar: Sugar consumption is associated with poor memory and reduced brain volume, especially in the area responsible for short-term memory, and long-term sugar consumption is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease with age.

    Use omega-3s: Several studies have shown that taking fish and fish oil supplements may improve memory, especially in the elderly. One study of 36 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment found improved short-term memory after taking omega-3 supplements. Concentrated fish oil for 12 months.

    • Do exercise

    Exercising helps improve brain activity for all ages, increasing the secretion of proteins that protect nerves and improves the growth and development of nerve cells. Exercising after the age of fifty helps protect one from developing various types of dementia at a later time.

    • Try meditation to remember

    The older one gets, the more gray matter in the brain diminishes, and meditation has been shown to increase it. Meditation also increases brain flexibility and directly affects long-term memory.

    • Make sure you get enough sleep

    Lack of sleep can cause an imbalance in cognitive functions, including the brain’s ability to form and store memories, and sleep is closely related to the brain’s ability to transfer information from short-term memory to long-term memory, so it is important for an adult to get a number of hours of sleep ranging from 7 to 9 hours.

    • Train your brain to remember

    A study of nearly 5,000 people showed that after they used mobile brain training apps for at least 15 minutes 5 days a week, their short-term memory, working memory, focus and problem-solving skills improved significantly.

    We may always look at forgetting as a negative thing and constantly look for mixtures and exercises to strengthen our memory, but it is also important to remember the positive side of it and not only because when we forget we overcome painful experiences better, but because many studies have proven that one needs to forget in order to remember Effectively and correctly, and because if we remembered everything all the time, we would not be able to focus, neither I am writing the article nor you reading it.


    About the author

    Nour Eddine Fecih

    I'm happy to share my stories with Vocal media community.

    Reader insights

    Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

    How does it work?

    Add your insights


    Nour Eddine Fecih is not accepting comments at the moment

    Want to show your support? Send them a one-off tip.

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.