How To Access Forgotten Memories

The following sample essay on How To Access Forgotten Memories provides all necessary basic information on this matter, including the most common “for and against” arguments. Below are the introduction, body and conclusion parts of this essay. Memory is a great artist. For every man and for every woman, it makes the recollection of his or her life a work of art and an unfaithful record. Memories are events in our daily life that are either retained because they are personally significant or lost because of their insignificance.

Retained memories may be of a vivid quality but their accuracy upon retrieval is questionable, containing minor or major errors. Substitution of the Old for the New Loftus  provided evidence disproving the view that all memories are permanent and thus potentially recoverable.

It was argued that when people are given new and misleading information about a previously seen incident, they are often unable to remember the original incident accurately and that the “forgetting” observed under these conditions is due to the loss of original memories once new information has been encoded.

That is, substitution of the old information for the new has occured. This updating of old memories is assumed to be automatic and has the consequence of removing any previously existing knowledge that is contradicted by the new information.

Hence, according to Loftus, forgetfulness is due to a potential loss of memory. A Question of Inaccessibility However, Bekerian and Bowers (1983) and Christiaansen and Ochalek (1983) contended that the original information is not lost from memory, but is merely rendered inaccessible or non-retrievable.

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Bekerian and Bowers argued that in Loftus’s studies, the recognition test items are presented in random order and not in the order in which the queried information occurred in the original slide sequence. Thus the retrieval environment does not closely match the original encoding environment.

The misleading information effect may occur because subjects are unable to access the original information effectively under these conditions and instead retrieve the postevent information. They found that if the test reinstated the original environment more fully, subjects are able to access the original information effectively and misled subjects perform as well as control subjects. It was thus concluded that the access of original memories depends on the retrieval environment, especially features present at the time of original encoding. There is therefore no loss in the original information, but accessibility is impaired under conditions of the random test. McCloskey and Zaragoza (1985) later criticised all previous studies as being inappropriate for assessing the effects of misleading information on memory because of logical problems with the procedures or methodological problems with the experiments reported.

They concluded from their modified experiment that misleading postevent information has no effect on memory for the original event. However, it was suggested that under some conditions, misleading postevent information can affect or influence memory. Hypnosis and Eyewitness Memory The debate on whether forgotten memories still exist continues with an influential review of the effects of hypnosis on eyewitness testimony by Mingay (1987). Incidents which cause considerable stress or physical injury may impair or prevent recall. However, studies which involve the use of hypnosis to enhance recall were not found to be significant. Forensic hypnotists have also consistently alleged that new information have been provided in most cases where hypnosis have been employed.

However, further discussion have suggested that both accurate and inaccurate information are elicited during the forensic interview, probably due to a number of factors unrelated to the hypnotic intervention. The numerous differences between the typical hypnotic and non-hypnotic interview means that users of forensic hypnosis cannot know whether the hypnotic intervention was a factor influencing the performance of a witness. This consideration, and the likelihood that users of forensic hypnosis will selectively attend to and remember the successes, can adequately account for their strong beliefs in the efficacy of hypnosis.

The empirical evidence pertaining to the effects of hypnosis on the recall of events after several months have elapsed is also somewhat inadequate, but suggests that hypnosis does not facilitate remembering under these circumstances. Hence, it is evident that hypnosis fails to offer any insight into the existence of “forgotten ” memories. Autobiographical Memory Rsearch done on autobiographical and childhood memories reveal a startling amount of long-forgotten memories mixed with the experience of recalling something many years after it was last recalled. Brewer (1986) defined autobiographical memory to be the memory for information related to self, e. g. personal memory, autobiographical facts, generic personal memory and the self-schema.

He characterised a personal memory as a recollection of a particular episode from an individual’s past which has strong visual imagery. Personal memories are also accompanied by a strong belief that they are an accurate record of the originally experienced episode. Flashbulb memories were first discussed by Brown and Kulik (1977) to be very vivid memories of personal and emotional events. They are of a “photographic” quality and often contain visual, auditory and even taste and smell components of the event. The events are always of personal importance and are often surprising and emotional.

The problem with both personal and flashbulb memories is their veridicality. Although individuals believe that their memory of an event is absolute and accurate, there have been evidence (Neisser, 1982) to show that reconstruction and alteration of the original event occurs and that minor and major errors are made unknowingly. Emotion also play a major role in flasbulb memory and vivid memory formation. The mood and the intensity of the emotion at that particular moment can influence the memories that are retained of that event, thus making recall not absolutely reliable.

Regular rehearsal of the event might further reaffirm the inaccurate new reconstructed version in memory. Details from frequent rehearsals become incorporated in the original memory and the composite memory constructed represents a person’s flashbulb memory of an event. The description of autobiographical memory as reconstructive and acquired through a schematization process may apply to many instances of functional anomalies in everyday memories. Any situation resulting in the false recognition of new information as previously experienced may be explained in terms of similarities in surface features and semantic properties between what is remembered and fact.

Conversely, failure to remember an event would also be due to a simlarity effect because actual events merge into and become indistinguishable from generic “events” compatible with what the person thinks could have happened. Hence most autobiographical memories are true but inaccurate. These errors, though, may be mediated by an accurate “self-portrait” because not every memory can be accepted as one’s own. The sense of familarity created by an event is associated with a judgement that the event is true to what most likely occured and consistent with what should have happened. In conclusion, forgotten memories are probably neither lost nor irretrievable. The conditions on retrieval may possibly influence the process. The integration of other information may also affect and modify the original information. Also, personal judgement and self-depiction of the event may also distort the memory of the event. Hence, it is a host of inter-webbed factors that may cause the phenomenon of “forgetfulness” and not one explanation is totally satisfactory.


  1. Bekerian, D and Bowers, J (1983) Eyewitness testimony: were we misled? Journal of Experimantal Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition; 9, 139-145

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How To Access Forgotten Memories. (2019, Dec 06). Retrieved from

How To Access Forgotten Memories
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