Forgetting to do things is not uncommon. There are many different relevant explanations as to why a student would forget to do their Psychology work. This could have occurred at the encoding, storage or retrieval stage. There are two distinctions between forgetting. They are availability – whether the information was stored in the first place, and accessibility – whether the information can be retrieved from where it has been stored. The first way in which the student may have forgotten their homework is through availability problems because it had not reached their Long Term Memory.
This could have been for two reasons. Firstly this may be due to limitations of the multi-store model of memory, and could have been lost through decay or displacement. The multi-store model reduces what information is received down into smaller proportions, so that it is more manageable. When the information is in the sensory memory, if no attention is paid to it the information will be lost through decay. If the information reaches the Short Term Memory, but is not rehearsed then it will be replaced by new information coming in due to the small capacity of the Short Term Memory.
So, if the student was talking at the time the homework was set, or if the student didn’t rehearse in their mind that homework was set it would be displaced by new information that would be going into the Short Term Memory. Another reason as to why the student may have forgotten is that according to the Levels Of Processing model any information that is only processed on a shallow level e. g. if the student hadn’t translated the language of the homework into a way that they would understand they would be less likely to recall the information, or in this case the homework. If something has prevented the consolidation of the information in the
student’s memory the homework would have been lost from it. This could be done through disruption in the following ways – concussion, brain surgery, ECT, or some other drugs. Yarnell and Lynch (1973) conducted an experiment that shows this. American football players who were suffering from concussion were questioned immediately after their injury and then 20 minutes after. They were asked to describe the events leading up to their injury. When the players were asked immediately afterwards they could recall the events, but when asked again 20 minutes later they couldn’t remember because the consolidation period was disrupted.
Dingman and Sporn (1963) conducted research on consolidation using rats. The experimenters injected the rats with protein synthesis inhibitors whilst learning a water maze. It was found that whilst the rats were on the drug no Long Term learning occurred. Both Yarnell and Lynch and Dingman and Sporn’s studies show how if the psychology student was to have hit their head or have taken some form of drugs just before or immediately after the homework was set, the student could have quite easily forgotten the homework.
Another way in which forgetting can happen through availability problems is due to trace decay. Memory trace or engram is the neural representation of memory, decay or weakening of this memory trace leads to both Short Term and Long Term forgetting. Donald Hebb’s(1949) argument is that in the Short Term Memory brief neural excitation happens between nerve cells and trace decay occurs. If trace decay was to happen in the Long Term Memory structural changes would have to happen. Waugh and Norman (1965) tested this theory.
They used a serial probe technique to see if reading a participant a list of digits at a faster speed would increase recall from the Short Term Memory, as should be true if Hebb’s theory is correct because the information would have less time to decay. They found that there was no relationship between speed and recall. Decay is also believed to happen in the Long Term Memory through disuse, but this doesn’t explain how elderly people can remember things such as riding a bike years after they last did it.
Another way in which information can be forgotten is through accessibility problems. Researchers have investigated the idea that information is better remembered under the conditions it was learnt in. Baddeley (1982) was one of these researchers and he distinguished between extrinsic and intrinsic contexts. When studying the extrinsic context Godden and Baddeley (1975) found divers who had learnt a list of words whilst on land could remember them a lot less when tested underwater. This also applied if the diver learnt the words underwater.
Bower (1981) also conducted a study on this subject. Participants learnt information in either a sad or happy mood and when hypnotised found that their recall was greater if they recalled the information in the same mood as when they had learnt the information. The intrinsic context refers to direct cues that are given to meaningfully related material to be remembered, such as category headings. The psychology student may not have remembered that they had homework until they returned back into the context the information was given (the classroom) where the homework was set.
If they were to return to the mood they were in at the time the homework was set they may also remember. The student forgetting to do their Psychology homework could have been for any number of reasons, be it through availability or accessibility problems. Decay or displacement could have been the cause other ways that the information could have been forgotten through availability problems could be through it not being consolidated or through trace decay. The student could have lost the information through accessibility as they weren’t in the context that the homework was set when they needed to remember this.