is a term used to refer to loss of a memory.
It may refer to the decay or overwriting of information which
has been temporarily stored in short-term
memory. In general use, however, forgetting is usually
assumed to refer to loss of information from long-term
The biological mechanism of forgetting is
still not completely understood. An old view (based on Freudian
psychology) held that everything that is experienced is stored
somewhere in the mind, and can always be retrieved, either
by conscious recollection or through techniques such as hypnosis.
Today, many researchers believe that stored memories can actually
become lost, either by decay or by being overwritten with
Often, the failure to retrieve a memory
reflects not "forgetting" or loss per se, but the fact that
the memory was not well stored in the first place. Alternatively,
forgetting may be a temporary failure of retrieval; in this
case, the memory is temporarily unavailable, but may be accessible
However, memories also simply grow weaker
with time; details fall away. Such forgetting is an important
component of healthy memory: without some mechanism for selectivity,
memory would soon become overwhelmed by the details of every
piece of information ever experienced.
Rehearsal or periodic retrieval of a memory
certainly helps to prevent or delay forgetting; important
or meaningful information can survive for decades or even
a lifetime with no appreciable loss of detail.
Further reading: D. Schacter (1996). Searching
for Memory: The Brain, the Mind and the Past. New York:
by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain