Forgetting and Our Emotional State

They are peripheral details which are encoded which wouldn’t normally be encoded. These details may be where the person was at the time and what the were doing when the event took place or when being told it took place etc. an example may be when Felix Baumgartner sky dived from out of space. FBM’s are usually formed if the event was emotionally arousing. They tend to be memories of the events which is episodic rather than memories of facts which are semantic.

An evaluation point of FMB is research done by Brown and Kulik, it was found that white P’s had FBM’s for assassinations of white people for e.g. President Kennedy whereas black P’s had FBM’s of the assassinations of black people for e.g. Martin Luther King. This supports FBM’s as it showed that emotional arousal,huge significance and persona relevance are important factors in the formation of FBM’s.

It was also suggested by Brown and Kulik that the ability to form FBM’s would be useful for our ancestors for activities such as hunting and gathering to survive.

This would be an evolutionary advantage as there would be trial and error and the errors would have caused trauma which in turn led to a FBM so the error would not be attempted again. However it could be said that in the 21st century it is not very useful as there is no need to hunt and gather. The suggestion of evolutionary advantages supports FBM’s.

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Support for Brown and Kulik is from the research where it is shown how sudden shocks or surprises increase adrenaline production. Stress hormones are known to lead to stronger memory information/ so high arousal of a sudden even triggers changes and increases the production of adrenaline. This is then likely to form into a  FBM. Its an advantage to have this medical knowledge as it is objective so there is no risk of demand characteristics, it I also high in reliability.

Contradictory evidence for  FBM’s are that high arousal and danger might be the cause of them. Write found that there was little evidence for witnesses of the Hills-borough football disaster having  FBM’s. 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death and this was seen by hundreds. After 5 months fans tended to have only a vague memory and not the clear  FBM’s one which was expected. However it could be said that the witnesses may not have wanted to recall the events as it may have been traumatic to remember so they pretended they forgot.

Another contradicting point for FBM is the MSM. Neisser has criticised the concept of  FBM’s and says they can be explained in other ways. They could be explained by using the models of memory, for example the MSM say that we remember long lasting memories because of rehearsal, and a traumatic event may be rehearsed. Repression: Freud believed that forgetting is an unconscious motivated process. He came up with motivated forgetting which involved memories which were too emotionally painful to be forgotten using a defence mechanism such as repression and denial.

It was said that in repression painful feelings are at first conscious and then are forgotten, but they are stored in the unconscious from where they can be retrieved. Repression can range from momentary lapses of forgetting the details of a horrific event such as a murder. Amnesia can occur in cases where the person has experienced something extremely painful. Freud says that the Oedipus and Elektra complex go through repression whereby the child represses incestuous desires towards the the opposite sex parent and feelings of rivalry towards the same sex parent. Freud didn’t believe all forgetting can be explained through repression but most of it could be due to getting rid of unwanted and unnecessary information.

People may forget experiences because of unpleasant associations for e.g. you may forget your homework because you didn’t want to do it so you simply pushed it out of your mind. This is called suppression which is a conscious or semi conscious behaviour as distinct from repression that occurs unconsciously. Repression is when the ego protects itself from emotional conflicts. Traumatic events cause anxiety and to reduce this the memory of the even is forgotten, this anxiety maybe expressed through dreams or disordered behaviour as in the the case of little Hams.

The repressed memories continue to affect conscious thought,desire and action even though there is no conscious memory of the traumatic event. Once the traumatic event is repressed  from the conscious mind to the unconscious mind it make individual feel better,at least temporarily. And evaluation point for repression is research by Levinger and Clark, they carried out a study where the P’s were given negatively charged words and neutral words. They had to do a word association task whilst having their skin response measured. The P’s were then given the cue words again and asked the associations hey had just reported. They found that P’s took longer to recall the negatively charged associations than the neutral ones. So it could be said that it took longer to access the unconscious mind for the word associations.

It has been reported that between 20-60% of people undergoing therapy as a result of child sexual abuse report periods in their lives when they could not remember the abuse had taken place. This supports repression as it shows that the memories had been repressed in their unconscious. However it could be said that they did not want to recall the events so therefore pretended they couldn’t remember.

Freud published case studies for his neurotic patients to support his ideas of repression. These have been questioned as inaccurate, however the case studied were unique and one off and can’t be generalised as the study took place on white,middle class neurotic women only. The study could be therefore be said to be Oestocentric and culture bias. The study however did have rich qualitative data.

Post traumatic stress disorder is where people re-live traumatic events that have taken place in theory lives. This contradicts repression theory as these people are always remembering it as its not being repressed like Freud says they should. Robinson et al found that the memory of childbirth pain seems to be forgotten or repressed over time. This supports Freud’s theory as child birth can be very traumatic however there are problems with using this evidence to support repression. It is difficult to generalise as the pain of childbirth is more painful and lasts longer than other types of pain.

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Forgetting and Our Emotional State. (2017, Sep 22). Retrieved from

Forgetting and Our Emotional State
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