Reasons Why People Forget

Why Do I Forget Things Easily?

Reasons Why People Forget
Forgetting things is quite common. You may forget things easily due to aging, Alzheimer's disease, stress, head injury, medications and other reasons.

It is important to understand that forgetting things is quite common. Anyone can forget the shopping list at home, misplace car keys and not remember appointments.

The mind going blank occasionally is not always a serious problem, but a sign that you need a break. However, when it comes to frequent memory loss, disorientation, brain fog, along with other symptoms, such as irritability or loss of the sense of smell, it could be a sign of issues (such as Alzheimer's or some kind of dementia).

You may need to visit your physician and get it checked out.

A declining memory is also a common sign of aging. The other common reasons may include

If you realize that you constantly forget things, you must consult a neuro physician for a comprehensive evaluation. The doctor may find it necessary to order some tests and suggest lifestyle modification along with medications.

How can I improve my memory to overcome forgetfulness?

The brain is a complex organ with innumerable connections. Certain exercises and activities, if done regularly, may help strengthen those connections.

The following suggestions may help boost your memory:

  • Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. This helps keep your memory sharp. For most healthy adults, the researchers recommend at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (brisk walking) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity (jogging) preferably spread throughout the week.
  • Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain healthy and might keep memory loss at bay. Try solving crossword puzzles or attempting numerical games. Read a section of the newspaper that you normally skip. Learn to play a musical instrument.
  • Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others, especially if you live alone.
  • Limit distractions and don’t try to do too many things at once. Think about the task you are working on and try to focus.
  • Sleep plays an important role in helping you consolidate your memories, so you can recall them down the road. Getting enough sleep is a priority. Most adults need seven to eight hours of undisturbed sleep a day.
  • Diet might be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat and skinless poultry. What you drink counts, too. Not enough water or too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss.
  • Follow doctor’s treatment recommendations for any chronic conditions, such as depression or kidney or thyroid problems. The better you take care of yourself, the better your memory is ly to be. Also, review your medications with your doctor regularly. Various medications can impact memory.
  • Set your alarms and use features to organize your dates. Stop multitasking. Concentrate on one task at a time.
  • Pay attention to the items that surround the objects you have forgotten. Keep your things organized.
  • Try meditation. It strengthens your focus and coordination and improves memory as well.

What are the signs of serious memory problems?

According to the U.S. National Institute on Aging (part of the National Institutes of Health), serious memory problems make it hard to do everyday things. Signs of serious memory problems may include

  • Asking the same questions repeatedly
  • Getting lost in places you know well
  • Not being able to follow directions
  • Becoming more confused about time, people and places
  • Not taking care of yourself, eating poorly, not bathing or being unsafe

Humans are good at remembering complex chunks of information rather than a single detail.

It is a lot easier for a person to remember four photographs in detail than it is to remember a list of several two-digit numbers. The brain forms memories through consolidation, attention and emotional arousal.

By focusing a little more on things and using proper learning strategies in everyday life, you may be able to retain more information.

One of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is __________________. See Answer

Medically Reviewed on 7/13/2021


National Institutes of Health: «Things Forgotten.» WebMD: «Is It Alzheimer’s or Normal Aging?»

Scientific American: «Why Do We Forget?»


6 Real Reasons for Forgetting Everyone Should Know

Reasons Why People Forget
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Why do we forget?

We do not bother ourselves much with the answer: once you forget something your biggest problem is to recall it, not to think why the information just disappeared from your head. But maybe if we would look at why we forget closer, the whole issue of forgetting wouldn’t be so disturbing?

For effective learning, memory is as essential as the air to breathe. The quicker you memorize, the easier the learning process is.

However, memorizing information is one thing. Keeping it somewhere in the back of your memory in order to retrieve it whenever you need, is another. Let’s see some explanations for the most common memory errors that lead to forgetting (as the research of E. Loftus and D. Schacter).

1. Retrieval failure, or how facts quietly vanish from your memory

Have you ever felt you’re not able to remember knowledge you were really good at some time ago (e.g., at high school)? That knowledge seemed quite fundamental to you but now you just fail to retrieve it.

One possible explanation for such failure is that information tends to fade away in the course of time, especially when you do not actively use it. New knowledge comes instead, and it has a higher priority for your current work. This is why practice is important. It’s one of the best ways to retain information in long-term memory (which means you’ll be able to retrieve it anytime.)

2. Absent-mindedness, or forgetting even trivial things

Because of so many things distracting us while we are busy, our attention gets scattered and information we want to memorize doesn’t even go to info short-term memory.

Why do we forget so often, even routine things locking the door in the morning? One of the reasons is that we don’t really think about those things while doing them. Our brain is occupied with something else and so misses the moment when we can recall that yes, we did lock the door.

The same goes with learning or work. That’s why for effective learning, focus and attention are so important – if you’re not concentrated the information has little odds to get to your memory at all. On the contrary, if you’re fully focused on the task you are more ly to memorize information right away.

3. Blocking, or being knocked down by a single word (or rather its absence)

You’re struggling to remember some fact and it seems it’ll dawn on you in a few seconds but for some reason it doesn’t. Does this sound familiar to you?

Even psychology recognizes this highly unpleasant experience. Tip-of-the-tongue feeling is a state when we fail to remember some familiar word.

Our memory gives us several hints about some of its background and we experience a strong feeling that the word is about to come right now – sometimes it does come, but not always.

Blocking is accompanied by frustration and sometimes even obsession, as we might not make ourselves stop thinking about it.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing much one can do about blocking, except hoping that word will come up eventually.

4. Misattributions, or confusing the facts

Another way our memory might fail us is misattributions – we may confuse sources of information. As you can imagine, it’s hardly the best outcome for learning or work. Misattribution often goes hand in hand with a very strong feeling of astonishment: we feel 100% sure we read that passage in book A while a friend points out it’s from book B.

Again, there’s not much we can do about such forgetting, except approach our judgments critically and give them a second thought.

5. Cognitive biases, or our inability to see the world as it really is

These are the weird psychological phenomena influencing the way we assess the world around us. Everybody is susceptible to biases; they act on an unconscious level and blur our perception of reality. Although in many cases, biases act as defense mechanisms which are hardly helpful when it comes to judging rationally.

For effective learning, approaching knowledge critically is important. It’s also equally important to challenge one’s own beliefs. One of the many examples of cognitive biases in action is the illusory truth effect: we tend to believe information we hear often enough. Moreover, we are more inclined to forget facts not consistent with our opinions which is hardly good for rational thinking.

6. Persistence, or sticking to negative

Some things should rather be forgotten: unpleasant experiences, failures and the . Although it’s counterintuitive, we sometimes choose to stick to them and bring them out into the open every time something reminds us of the failure. Sometimes we retain those memories consciously, sometimes we wish them to disappear but they won’t – it depends.

Learning is a sequence of successes and mistakes. One is impossible without another; it’s therefore important not to become preoccupied with memories of failures as it undermines our motivation and confidence. It makes sense to try to block such recollections so they won’t drain your energy and focus on the positive ones instead.

Final thoughts

As you can imagine, this is not the ultimate list of what our memory is able of. But because both memory and forgetting are so important to our learning and work, we should really know more about how it all works.

Every word we see or read changes our memory in a way. The memory decides what is to be stored and what is to be thrown away. In order for you to be an effective learner, it’d be perfect if your memory keeps the right things – but that’s the whole trick about it because you can never tell what it will choose to keep eventually.

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Reasons Why People Forget

Everyone forgets things; a person’s name, where they left their keys, the ending to a movie, or how to do math problems.  However, the reason why we forget something may differ.

  Have you ever felt a piece of information has just disappeared from memory?  Or have you had situations where you have no memory of a certain event?  Or maybe, you know certain pieces of information exist in your mind, but you just cannot seem to retrieve it.

The inability to retrieve a memory is only one cause of forgetting.   We may forget because the information was never in long-term memory in the first place.  The way information is encoded affects the ability to remember it.

  If it is not coded effectively, we will ly forget the information in the future.  We may also forget specific information because we confuse it with other information which we have processed.

  Information may also be forgotten simply because we have not thought about in in a long time.

Retrieval Failure

The inability to retrieve a memory is one of the most common causes of forgetting.   Retrieval failure is the failure to recall a memory due to missing stimuli or cues that were present at the time the memory was encoded.

 This theory is that a memory is temporarily forgotten simply because it cannot be retrieved, but with the proper cue that information can be brought to mind.

 For example, you might not remember the name of an actor in a movie, but his name might suddenly pop into your mind if you see a clip from a movie or if someone tells you the name begins with the letter “L”.  The movie or the letter would be acting as a cue for remembering the actor’s name.

With retrieval failure, the information still exists in memory, but just not readily available without specific cues.  A good retrieval cue will be consistent with the original encoding of the information.

Ineffective Encoding

The inability to remember information may sometimes have less to do with forgetting and more to do with the fact that it never made its way into long-term memory.  This type of forgetting is caused because the person did not pay attention in the first place.

  Encoding failure or ineffective coding may prevent information from entering long-term memory, and thus the information never being stored to be able to be retrieved at a later date.  This may happen when you meet someone and later you cannot remember his or her name.

  This is probably because you were preoccupied when you were introduced, and the name never made it to long term memory.

An example of ineffective coding can also be exhibited by trying to draw the back of a dime from memory.

  Chances are you probably remember the shape and color, but probably could not draw a lot of the details even though you have seen hundreds of dimes over the course of your life.

  The reason for this is that only details necessary for distinguishing dimes from other coins were encoded into your long-term memory.


Interference occurs when information gets confused with other information in our long-term memory.

  The Interference theory suggests that some memories compete and interfere with other memories, and that memory loss occurs when information stored either before or after a given memory hinders the ability to remember it.  Essentially, cues for different memories may be too similar so a wrong memory gets retrieved.

There are two types of interference:

Retroactive interference occurs when new information interferes with your ability to remember previously learned information.

  Basically, it occurs when information works backwards to interfere with earlier information, so previously learned information is lost because it is mixed up with new and somewhat similar information.

 For example, if you learn the state capitals this week, new information, such as world capitals, presented to you next week could cause you to become confused about the state capitals.

Proactive interference is when an old memory makes it more difficult to remember new information.  Current information is lost because it is mixed up with previously learned information that may be similar.

  For example, you could have trouble learning a new math concept because it conflicts with preconceived notions or assumptions you may have regarding a similar topic.

 For example, if you knew the rules of rugby then started learning the rules of football, you may have trouble remembering the rules of football because they conflict with the old information (rules of rugby).

Retroactive interferenceOccurs when newly learned information makes people forget old information.
Proactive interferenceOccurs when old information makes people forget newly learned information.

Decay Theory (Fading)

The Decay theory suggests that when something new is learned, a memory “trace” is formed in the brain and over time the trace begins to fade and disappear, unless it is occasionally used.   With this theory, if information is not occasionally retrieved, it will eventually be lost.

The Decay Theory explains the loss of memories from sensory and short-term memory, but not from long term memory.  When information fades from working and short-term memory, it disappears because the space was needed for other incoming information.

  However, loss of long-term memories does not seem to depend on how much time has gone by since the information was learned.  Most theorists believe that once information has been transferred to long-term memory it is stored there permanently.

 The theorists believe that the memory is always there, but the mental path to get to the memory has decayed.  For example, people might easily remember their first day of high school, but completely forget the last movie they saw.  This may be because of the strong links (emotion, visual, etc..

) the person has to the memory.  This is why people who see a horrific accident, have a hard time forgetting it.

With the Decay theory, when information fades from long-term memory, what really fades is the link to that information, not the information itself.  The information is there, but we just cannot find it.  It is a path in the woods that leads to a cabin; the more you use the path, the easily it is to find the cabin.

  However, if you do not use the path for several years, the path will eventually fade.  The cabin will still exist, but will be harder to find because the path that leads there has faded.

  Fading can be prevented by encoding the information as meaningfully as possible, by frequently retrieving it, and by using effective memory strategies.

Motivated Forgetting

The Motivated Forgetting theory suggests people forget because they push unpleasant thoughts and feelings deep into their unconscious.  People may actively work to forget memories, especially those of traumatic or disturbing events or experiences.

The two basic forms of motivated forgetting are:

Suppression:a conscious form of forgetting
Repression:an unconscious form of forgetting

Physical Injury or Trauma

Anterograde amnesia is the inability to remember events that occur after an injury or traumatic event.  Retrograde amnesia is the inability to remember events that occurred before an injury or traumatic event.

Organic Causes

Forgetting that occurs through physiological damage to the brain is referred to as organic causes of forgetting.

 These theories encompass the loss of information already retained in long term memory or the inability to encode new information.

 This is typically caused by the gradual slowing down of the central nervous system due to aging.  Examples include Alzheimer’s, Amnesia, and Dementia.


Classification of Memory

Memory Process

Stages of Memory

Types of Memory

Encoding Memory

Memory Techniques

Causes of Forgetting

Encoding Information into Memory

Paying Attention and Memory

Types of Attention


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