Why Memory Fails Us


People tend to take a lot of things for granted such as our ability to remember things. It comes so naturally to us that we never really put much thought into it. That is, of course, until our memory starts to fail us. It is then that we are all scrambling for explanations and methods for improving memory. Before anyone can really get down to how to solve the issue they have to first understand why their memory is starting to fail them.

One problem that people tend to have with their memory is that they feel as though the memory is there but they just cannot seem to get their hands on it. This type of memory retrieval problem is known as the decay theory. It is believed that when a new memory is formed, a trace, or a path to that memory, is formed. It is the belief of the decay theory that these paths or traces disappear or fade over time. For pieces of information or memories of something that do not get retrieved from time to time, they will eventually become lost.

There are also the encoding failures that take place. These failures are the result of memories being unable to make it into the long term memory bank. Then there is, of course the interference theory which suggests that there are some memories that interfere with the storage of other memories, sort of like a competition for space even though there should be no problem remembering everything. The interference theory is actually broken down into two types.

The proactive interference is where old memories make it hard to remember new memories or new information. Then there is the retroactive interference which is where the new memory or new information messes with a person’s ability to remember older memories or information. Whether it is proactive or retroactive, this is not a fun experience to have to go through.

Another kind of memory failure is the motivated forgetting. This is where the brain actually works to forget memories on purpose. Generally this happens to memories of disturbing events and traumatic times. The motivated forgetting can be sorted into two types. Suppression is where the person is consciously trying to forget the traumatic or emotionally disturbing memories. Then there is repression which is where the brain is unconsciously trying to forget the terrible events or memories.

Now that you have a better idea as to why our memory fails us in various circumstances, it is time to see if you can do something about it. Not being able to remember things you feel you should remember is not a fun experience. Learning how to improve your memory is a lot easier than you might think. The sooner you begin to improve your memory the better you will feel.