The psychology and neuroscience of forgetting

Traditional theories of forgetting are wedded to the notion that cue-overload interference procedures (often involving the A-B, A-C list-learning paradigm) capture the most important elements of forgetting in everyday life. However, findings from a century of work in psychology, psychopharmacology, and neuroscience converge on the notion that such procedures may pertain mainly to forgetting in the laboratory and that everyday forgetting is attributable to an altogether different form of interference. According to this idea, recently formed memories that have not yet had a chance to consolidate are vulnerable to the interfering force of mental activity and memory formation (even if the interfering activity is not similar to the previously learned material). This account helps to explain why sleep, alcohol, and benzodiazepines all improve memory for a recently learned list, and it is consistent with recent work on the variables that affect the induction and maintenance of long-term potentiation in the hippocampus.

Tags: alcohol, benzodiazepines, consolidation, forgetting, hippocampus, interference, long-term-potentiation, memory, neuroscience, pharmacology, psychology, and sleep

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Format: Scientific Paper

Creator(s): John Wixted (

Publication Date: 2003, Nov 3rd

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