Psychology: Memory: Stages and Types of Memory, Forgetting

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Memory refers to the set of processes involved in storing information. This specific process is termed as retention. Memory can be defined as a perceptually active mental system that receives, encodes, modifies, and retrieves information. We cannot directly observe the process of memory. It can be studied indirectly by measuring retention. Three basic methods of measuring retention are: Recall, Recognition, and Relearning

Stages of Memory

According to the most acceptable model of memory there are three major systems of memory: Sensory memory, short term memory and Long- term memory. The information moves successively from one stage to another if attention is given to the material.

  • Sensory memory: Sensory memory holds visual images for duration of ½ second and auditory stimulus for duration of 2 seconds. The capacity of this type of memory is quite large. The forgetting occurs in this type of memory by decay.

  • Short-term memory: The duration of storage for this memory is 20 seconds. The capacity of this type of memory is 7±2. Forgetting occurs in this type of memory by decay, interference and displacement.

  • Long term memory: The duration of storage for this type of memory is lifetime. The storage capacity is unlimited. Sometimes information stored in long term memory is lost due to interference, decay and lack of cues.

Types of Memory

The four types of memory are

Types of Memory

Types of Memory

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  • Semantic memory: This memory deals with knowledge, meaning and generalized experiences,

  • Episodic memory: It refers to the experience which are personal to an individual.

  • Procedural: This deals with memory for action or ways of doing certain things or activities.

  • Meta memory: It is the memory for remembering individual’s own experience.


Forgetting is loss of memory or failure to recall.

The causes of forgetting are

  • Decay- According to some psychologist forgetting occurs due to gradual fading of memory traces that happens with lapse of time.

  • Interference- According to some psychologist the memory is lost because of interference among the information when we are retaining them. There are two types of interference- proactive and retroactive interference.

  • Level of processing- Sometimes the information is lost as some information is not processed at deeper level it is processed at surface level.

Strategies for Enhancing Memory

Memory can be enhanced by deep processing, attending carefully, minimizing interference, distributed practice, using memory aid and shorthand codes

Repression: Forgetting Painful Events

The events and experience that are threatening and painful are eliminated form our consciousness.