In our daily life we have experienced the time we want to recall the name of a friend and we realize that we have forgotten it. Forgetting occurs  only  when some learning has taken place. If there is no learning then there is no forgetting. Thus forgetting & remembering are two sides of the same coin.

So when we are unable to remember it‘s called forgetting.

Munn: “Forgetting is the loss permanent or temporary of the ability to recall or recognize something learnt earlier”

Drever: “Forgetting means failure at any time to recall an experience, when attempting to do so or perform an action previously done.

Bhatia: “Forgetting is the failure of an individual to review in consciousness an idea or a group of ideas without the help of original stimulus.”

Thus forgetting is being unable to find the correct information. (from the mind) at the given situation. Forgetting is temporary at times when later we can remember the names & actions whereas forgetting is said to be permanent when in no situation we are able to recall the information.

Lets see why we are unable to recall information & Why do we forget? What are different types of forgetting?

Types of Forgetting:-

FORGETTING - Concept, Types, Causes, Educational Implications, CTET 2015 Exam Notes, KVS, DSSSB Study Material, CTET PDF NOTES DOWNLOAD.

1.    Decay through disuse or Theory of Decay:
Forgetting is a process of fading of the learnt matter with passage of time. According to this view, the vivid impressions created in the cerebral cortex fade away as time passes. Such fading or decay could be the result of the normal metabolic processes of the brain. As time passes, these processes might cause the traces of material once learnt to disintegrate gradually and eventually to disappear altogether.

2.    Interference of Association or Theory of Interference:
Here we see that forgetting is not caused just by fading away of traces, but by influence of the intervening activities.

a.    Retroactive interferences: Here new learning works backward & interferes with old learning.

b.    Proactive Inhibition or Interference: Here what we have learnt previously interferes with the new learning. Forgetting in our daily life is more due to proactive interference; our ability to recall what we have learnt is reduced by experiences previously learnt.

3.    Theory of Repression or Motivated Forgetting
The two earlier theories are physiological process of affecting mental trace or interference in learning. But here the person is not given importance. For some people, forgetting is a psychological process, where by will the unpleasant or conflicting experiences are repressed & pushed into the unconscious & forgotten. Thus repression is done because it may cause anxiety to remember the experiences e.g. remembering loved ones whom we will never see again, we want to forget those people who hurt us.


1.    Inadequate impression at the time of learning: Inadequate or improper learning is likely to be forgotten. Sometimes we do not care to learn a thing or pay least attention to it. This type of inadequate learning in most of the cases can be a real cause of forgetting.

2.    Lapse of time: With the passage of time what we learn, gets weaker and finally fade away.

3.    Poor health and defective mental state: A sound body is said to have a sound mind. Deterioration in health makes an individual less confident. He remains in a state of tension and thus is unable to concentrate upon a thing. He is unable to learn it effectively nor can he recall it.

4.    Repression: Repression is the active process of forgetting an experience because one wants to forget it. This kind of forgetfulness is wishful. Actually we forget the things which we don‘t want to remember. e.g. we forget to attend the marriage party which we don‘t want to attend.

5.    Emotional Disturbance: Fear, anxiety, stage fright may paralyze recall. Rise in emotions like fear or anger or love lead to forget the learned experiences e.g. a student afraid of a teacher may forget what has been learnt.

6.    Alteration of stimulus condition: Sometimes forgetting occurs when we have alteration of the stimulating conditions between the time of learning and the time of recall. e.g. a child who learns the meaning of words like cat, rat etc. with the help of pictures feel a great difficulty in naming them in the absence of such pictures.

7.    Forgetting due to interference of association: It means we forget something because what we have learned previously interferes with the remembering of what we learn afterwards. The interfering effects of associations can work both ways, forward and backward. In retroactive inhibition later learning interferes with earlier learning. In proactive inhibition earlier learning interferes with later learning.

8.    Change of stimulus conditions: we may have learnt in a specific environment, but we forget in the changed environment
e.g. we can say the speech well at home but in front of the audience, we are unable to speak.

9.    Poor Health: this prevents us from remembering  learnt material.

10. Defective mental state, fatigue, lack of interest or willingness all lead to forgetting

Factors that help to minimizing Forgetting or Factors, which help to improve Memory

1.    Rate of Learning: Its a fallacy that rapid learning is associated with rapid forgetting. But the reverse is actually true, in rapid learning forgetting is slow & when learning is slow, forgetting is rapid. Thus a slow learner, would eventually lose interest in the subject thus forget the material rather quickly than a quick learner.

2.    Over learning: Forgetting takes place as soon as we stop learning. So we must recall immediately after we have learnt & it must continue after intervals. Learning must be carried beyond the point where recall is just barely possible. Over learning, beyond the point of complete mastery, strengthens the impressions in the brain.

3.    Periodic review: This is very similar to self recitation thus as soon as we learn we start the review of the data. Reviews at frequent intervals prevent the decay of the learnt data or information.

4.    Kind of Material: Easy, simple, meaningful and logically related materials are easy to retain & forgotten less rapidly. Thus general concepts, scientific interpretations are better retained. Meaningless materials are forgotten quickly. Thus associations make material meaningful & quick to remember.

5.    Intention to Learn: Firm determination or strong will to learn is required to achieve success. Same material may be given to sets of students wherein one is willing & other is not unwilling to learn. In such cases, retention greater in those students who had a determination to learn.

6.    Proper Methods of Learning: Economical method must be chosen depending on the material to be learnt, so we chose Spaced versus Mass or Whole versus Part learning.

7.    Self recitation: After reading a lesson a few times, the student must try to review the whole thing without the help of a book. This method may also be termed as attempted recall and it makes a more economical use of one‘s study time. It also helps towards permanent retention.

How can we improve the way we learn?:

1.     A will to learn: Learning is better achieved when there is a drive to learn. Thus without intention, not much learning is achieved.

2.     Use Multiple sensory learning: Things are better remembered when presented through more than one sense e.g. Matter which is heard & written on the blackboard is retained better than only hearing something

3.     Rehearse and Recite: Rehearsal & recitation are useful in memorizing as self evaluation is possible and learning can be modified accordingly.

4.     Space your learning: Spacing what we learn or distributed learning helps better retention of learning as things learnt in small parts are retained longer.

5.     Follow the principle of association: Associating what we are learning with what we already know helps in remembering . e.g. A for apple, Z for zebra etc.

6.     Use Correlation: Topics must not be taught or learnt in water tight compartments. Correlate with experiences & related subjects to make learning interesting.

7.     Grouping & rhythm e.g. multiplication tables and poems are easy to learn because of grouping & rhythm. Use of Mnemonics also aids learning.

8.     Whole to Part to Whole: Before intensive study, go through the whole matter, understand it, break it to parts & then study it as a whole following the whole to part to whole method.

9.     Take breaks: Periods of change, rest & sleep helps remove fatigue & monotony. Fresh mind stores meaningful experiences for longer time.

10.  Over learn: Over learning helps retention. Review and revise very often.

11.  Avoid interference of subject similarity: Interference causes forgetting so similar situations, subjects, etc .must be spaced out. Complete the work, do sufficient drill work & then begin the next learning situation.

12.  Good Environment: Better learning environment makes learning interesting & vivid by using teaching aids , adopting new methods and techniques.

Educational Implications of forgetting

1.  The greater the acquaintance with the material the greater will be the remembrance. Hence over learning is a must.

2.  Comprehensive and thorough initial learning or teaching should be undertaken.

3.  Distributed practice should be encouraged rather than massed practice, because it enables the learner to learn without the on- set of fatigue, Hence either in learning of skills or memorization of material, distributed practice should be undertaken, taking as large wholes as possible.

4.  Association with previous knowledge and with pleasant atmosphere should be aimed at in teaching to lead to a better acquisition of knowledge.

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