The forgetting is the loss of memory . Humans continually forget over time, the speed and extent of forgetting depending on many factors, including: a. the interest, the emotionality of the memory and the "importance" of the information (essentials before details). Research into the process of forgetting is an important part of memory research. The exact function of forgetting is still largely unclear. In addition to these psychological theories of forgetting, there are also social science theories .
Investigations into oblivion
In a self- experiment in 1885 in which Hermann Ebbinghaus tried to learn meaningless syllables such as “ZOF” or “WUB”, Hermann Ebbinghaus found that he had already forgotten about 40% of what he had learned after about 20 minutes, 45% after one hour one day 66%. From these experiments he derived the forgetting curve.
Marigold Linton also carried out a self-experiment. For six years she kept a detailed diary in which she recorded important personal events with additional information. She checked her memories on about 150 records every month. After one year, an average of 1% of the noted details were forgotten, after two years it was an additional 5.1%, after four years 4.2% and after 5 years a further 5.5%. In the end, she was able to remember about 31.4% of the events. Since Linton has dealt very intensively with her memory, it can be assumed that the memory performance should be worse under normal everyday conditions.
How long something stays in the memory depends on many factors. Meaningless and incoherent information such as Ebbinghaus' syllables are forgotten more quickly than coherent and ordered knowledge. Information with an emotional coloring and self- reference also remains in the memory for a very long time.
According to Ribot's law, which was formulated by Théodule Ribot in 1882 and which can be paraphrased as first in, last out , contents learned early are retained in the memory longer than those added later.
Theories of oblivion
The main theories of forgetting are the following:
Trace decay theory
The idea that time can make a difference is deeply rooted in everyday thinking , including the assumption that (unused) memory contents, such as traces in the sand, fade or disappear over time. But time as such cannot cause anything. As with the tracks in the sand that are destroyed by the wind or water, it can be assumed that there must also be certain forces or influences that act on memory.
In long-term memory, however , such processes can be described. It is assumed that the strength of the synaptic connections corresponds to the strength of an engram (memory trace ). The stronger the connections between nerve cells, the more permanent and more readily available memory information is. Long-term potentiation and long-term depression form the basis for such changes at the cellular level .
In memory experiments with meaningless syllables, it was noticed that the subjects' memory performance decreased the more lists they had learned beforehand. Obviously, earlier learning had a negative effect on later. Such an interference (disruption) is called proactive inhibition . A backward-directed interference is called retroactive inhibition and describes the impairment of the memory of earlier information by newer information.
Such impairments mainly occur with learning content that is very similar.
Lack of suitable stimuli
Some memory researchers are of the opinion that nothing is lost from long-term memory and that forgetting instead is nothing more than a failure to retrieve content from memory.
The experience of information lying on the tongue that is temporarily inaccessible is experienced by people on average once a week and more frequently as they get older. One possible explanation is conditions during learning. Basically, remembering works better if the stimuli that were present during learning are also present when retrieving them.
- Trace change theory: When saving, things are already changed, we see e.g. B. an image with superimposed lines and save this as a star, not as exactly what we see (individual lines).
- Motivated forgetting / targeted forgetting : conscious or unconscious repression
- Autonomous decay theory
Peters principle : forgetting happens selectively . Events are forgotten depending on their emotional content. Things that are indifferent to us are forgotten faster than those that evoke strong emotions . In turn, positive emotions keep things in the memory longer than equally strong negative ones. The old days were the good times because the neutral and negative things are selectively forgotten in favor of the positive.
Sudden idea: In various theories, forgetting has an important function in information processing. Forgetting usually leads to a structuring of the memory contents, i. H. meaningful things become more concise. Against this background, Roy Dreistadt explains the sudden idea. What seems to be forgotten can return undetected as cryptomnesia .
Forgotten due to illness or trauma
Forgetting can also be caused by abnormal changes in the brain. These cases are often referred to as dementia . A well-known example of dementia is Alzheimer's disease . The course is usually insidious and occurs with increasing age.
Social science theories
Social scientific theories of forgetting refer on the one hand to forgetting that is triggered in social groups and through them in the individual. On the other hand, they address forgetting as a result of social action and as a fundamental mechanism for fading out possible references to the past in all forms of social structures such as institutions, social systems, social roles or discourses. The discussion of social forgetting is closely related to the topic of social memories. Basically, almost every social science theory offers statements on how to deal selectively with the past, since it deals with the question of providing the knowledge available in a current situation. Forgetting appears here on the one hand as an automatic or targeted cleaning up and removal of the irrelevant (social forgetfulness or making people forget), but it can also be understood as decay or loss. Genuinely sociological perspectives on social forgetting can be found in works by Oliver Dimbath , Elena Esposito or Niklas Luhmann , among others . Following Paul Connerton , Arnd Krüger presented seven sociological theories of forgetting with examples from sport, namely
- Damnatio memoriae
- Mandatory forgetting
- Forgetting as the basis for new opportunities and identity
- Structural amnesia
- Forgotten due to too much stored information
- Forgotten as planned obsolescence
- Forgotten as a shameful silence.
Axel Honneth described forgetting prior recognition as reification . In the process, the sensitive person who is endowed with rights and dignity falls into oblivion, who instead merges into a "totality of merely observable objects".
Forgotten in Niklas Luhmann's systems theory
According to Luhmann's system theory, forgetting is not a question of poor memory. Rather, forgetting is understood as a necessary procedural step in the operation of psychological and social systems. Thought sequences, as an operating form of psychic systems, and communications, as an operating form of social systems, reproduce themselves through binary distinctions and thus permanently secure their self-referential function. Applied to systems theory itself, z. B. the distinction system / environment the demarcation between the system and everything else. One side of two observation values is designated and the other is hidden. For all further distinctions in the system, in the case of the system / environment distinction, this means that the hidden value "Environment" no longer needs to be remembered in the further operations within the self-produced system / environment boundary if distinctions that are included again arise in the system. This is true even though the negated term, from a functional historical point of view, creates the constitutive condition for the system.
In the course of further distinctions, new points of the present arise again and again with the actualizing urge to make distinctions ( intentionality ). Thoughts and communications develop accordingly through a recursive chain of observation in a temporal sequence during a constant shift of observation fields. Processing would be blocked and therefore impossible without the constant fading out (forgetting) of the undesignated value. Luhmann writes about this:
"The main function of memory is therefore to forget, to prevent the system from blocking itself by clotting the results of previous observations." Gesellschaft der Gesellschaft ISBN 3-518-58240-2
Not-being able to forget
A few people cannot forget. In the United States, a woman named Jill Price has been famous for this ability since 2006. Researchers at the University of Irvine (USA) have called the phenomenon " hyperthymetic syndrome " (for example: extraordinary memory).
- Ranschburg phenomenon
- Memory retardation
- Zeigarnik effect
- Memory impairment
- Right to be forgotten
- Oliver Dimbath : Oblivionism. Forgetting and forgetfulness in modern science. University Press Konstanz, Konstanz 2014, ISBN 978-3-86764-493-8 .
- Oliver Dimbath & Peter Wehling (eds.): Sociology of forgetting. Theoretical approaches and empirical research fields. University Press Konstanz, Konstanz 2011, ISBN 978-3-86764-275-0 .
- Hinderk M. Emrich , Gary Smith (Eds.): On the benefit of forgetting. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-05-002527-1 .
- Elena Esposito : Social Forgetting. Forms and media of society's memory. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 2002, ISBN 978-3518291573 .
- Niklas Luhmann : The Society of Society. Two volumes. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 1998, ISBN 978-3518289600 .
- Harald Weinrich : Lethe. Art and criticism of oblivion. CH Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 978-3406448188 .
- G. Mietzel: Pedagogical psychology of learning and teaching. Hogrefe, 1998, p. 241ff.
- M. Pritzel, M. Brand, HJ Markowitsch: Brain and behavior. A basic course in physiological psychology. Spektrum, Heidelberg 2003, p. 413.
- M. Pritzel, M. Brand, HJ Markowitsch: Brain and behavior. A basic course in physiological psychology. Spektrum, Heidelberg 2003, p. 427.
- Oliver Dimbath: Oblivionism. Forgetting and forgetfulness in modern science. University Press Konstanz, Konstanz 2014, ISBN 978-3-86764-493-8 .
- Oliver Dimbath & Peter Wehling (eds.): Sociology of forgetting. Theoretical approaches and empirical research fields. University Press Konstanz, Konstanz 2011, ISBN 978-3-86764-275-0
- Elena Esposito: Social forgetting. Forms and media of society's memory. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 2002, ISBN 978-3518291573
- Niklas Luhmann: The society of society. Two volumes. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt / Main 1998, ISBN 978-3518289600
- Arnd Krüger : The seven ways to fall into oblivion. In: Arnd Krüger, Bernd Wedemeyer-Kolwe (Ed.): Forgetting, Displaced, Rejected. On the history of exclusion in sport. (= Series of publications by the Lower Saxony Institute for Sports History Hoya. Volume 21). LIT-Verlag, Münster 2009, ISBN 978-3-643-10338-3 , pp. 4-16; the original theory (excluding sport) is based on Paul Connerton: Seven Types of Forgetting. In: Memory Studies. 1, 2008, pp. 59-71.
- Axel Honneth: Reification. A study of recognition theory. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 2005.
- Axel Honneth: Reification. Suhrkamp, 2005, p. 70 .
- In Germany her book The Woman Who Can't Forget - Life With a Unique Memory was published. Kreuz-Verlag, 2009, ISBN 978-3-7831-3292-2 . (Original: The Woman Who Can't Forget. A Memoir. 2008) Cf. also GEO. 7/2010, pp. 98-102 (Text: Gary Markus)
- GedächtnisOnline - The website not only offers a lot of information about memory, but also a free memory check, with the help of which different sides of the memory are checked and compared with the performance of a comparison group (Uni Duisburg-Essen)
- Forgetfulness and Alzheimer's disease - a comparison of the signs on the website of the Alzheimer Research Initiative eV