How to Deal with Forgetfulness?

By Prapoorna M

Last Updated: November 25, 2021

Forgetfulness. Do you know the meaning of it? or “How could you forget it?” “What do you mean, I forgot?” is how we question others when we just get puzzled on the opinion that something cannot be forgotten. But still there are circumstances that we come across when people tend to forget.

Forgetfulness in Students | Forgetful Behavior

The students, who read to acquire knowledge for more time than others, also tend to forget for various reasons. Forgetting is the loss, permanent or temporary, of the ability to recall or recognize something learned earlier. In general, forgetfulness occurs due to variety of reasons such as undergoing stress and tension, not paying much attention while learning, being pre-occupied etc. to name a few. Let us have a look at the various reasons and the ways to deal forgetfulness.

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Why do we forget?

As mentioned earlier, we may forget for a variety of reasons. In many cases, we struggle to recall the memories. Let’s have an understanding on the factors that influence our forgetfulness and the memory improvement techniques that need to be practiced.

Faulty Memory Process

Sometimes we listen to many details but we encode only portion of the information in the form of gist and not the actual words or details, and the same will be stored. Constructive process at work during the process of encoding distorts what is stored in memory and we remember the distortions.

During the event, we tend to think and we forget some of the things. So, what we remember is not an accurate representation of what has really happened. Our memory does not match events as they actually occurred, but includes some distortions like our thoughts and imaginations also in it.


The theory of interference proposes that there are occasions when we forget because of competition from the new material. This means that what takes place between learning and recall sometimes influences what it actually is. This is not available to be remembered, as the information is in memory but becomes confused with other information.

Two types of interference Forgetfulness

Interference can be simply understood as a distortion of one memory by the influence of the other. The two main types of interference that are likely to occur are Retroactive interference and Proactive interference.

  • Retroactive interference occurs when new learning interferes with the retrieval of old learning.
  • Proactive interference occurs when old learning interferes with new learning.

Principles that govern Interference

There are five general principles that govern interference.

  • The greater the similarity between two sets of material, the greater the interference
  • Meaningless material is more susceptible to interference than meaningful material
  • The more difficult the distracting task between learning and recall, the more it will interfere with learning. If you revise for a history exam and then revise another difficult topic, this new learning will interfere more than if you did a simpler and less relevant task
  • Learning large volumes of information or multiple topics
  • Learning information in the same context

Hence, it is really important for students to know what to read when. Cultivating smart listening and reading skills, helps the students to remember the read material very well.

A teacher helping a student
A teacher helping a student

Minimize interference

Interference is a major cause of forgetting. The more similar materials are the more likely they are to produce interference. You should arrange your studying so that you don’t study similar subjects, in a day. They should be unrelated. The result will be less interference between them and, possibly better grades.

Failure of Retrieval

All of us, at some time or another, have had the irritating experience of knowing that we know something but not being able to recall it, the so- called ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ phenomenon. Information may be stored in the memory but we cannot always retrieve it when we want to. This is failure due to lack of accessibility rather than lack of availability.

This is just a common experience that we all face. Retrieving information is possible only when we relax and stop thinking or trying to recall it. You would automatically remember it when you don’t stress it much. So, when students forget the terms or concepts but have this tip-of-tongue feeling, then they can just relax and slowly remember the related topics. This helps the connection to build and the things will automatically get recalled without much stress.

Context dependent forgetting

The effect of context on Forgetfulness is known as context dependent forgetting or cue dependent forgetting. Provided with the right cues, we can quickly recover memories. Sometimes, a particular piece of music may bring back memories, or even a taste.

In the same way, students can also suffer forgetting and can recall the material they read, when certain cues are recalled. For example, a student who studies a certain topic, sitting on a chair, near a window, watching a tree outside, can recollect that forgotten topic in exam, if that scene flashes in mind as a photographic memory. Remembering the chair, the tree, the position he/she sat while reading helps the recollection of that particular topic.

So, why might students forget things they’ve been taught?

They might not remember things because of insufficient focus, time, attention on them, and because of insufficient practice, usage, re-examining, consolidation or application.

Here are the four important applications misused mostly.


People can’t remember things if they haven’t paid sustained attention to, in working memory.


Though you have paid attention, if it hasn’t made it into long-term memory, it will never strike.


You can’t remember things that no longer exist in long-term memory. They have faded through disuse.


The process of drawing things from long-term memory is often prone to failure because it is difficult to apply abstractions to new situations.

So, a student though aware or not of this misusage of the tremendous weapons they have, shall fall prey to forgetting. There are indeed a number of methods suggested for reducing forgetting and improving memory. Read to improve your study skills with interesting memory techniques and score high grades.

If you want to an expert opinion on you or your kid forgetting much, or if you need some help in improving the scores, or to have some career counselling, please feel free to approach our psychological consultants, who can help you with some advanced techniques. Book an appointment today.

FAQs for Forgetfulness and Memory Improvement

1. What is forgetfulness, and why do people tend to forget things?

  • Forgetfulness refers to the loss, permanent or temporary, of the ability to recall or recognize something learned earlier. People tend to forget for various reasons, including stress, lack of attention during learning, preoccupation, and other factors.

2. What is the faulty memory process, and how does it contribute to forgetfulness?

  • The faulty memory process involves encoding only a portion of information in the form of the gist rather than the actual details. During encoding, constructive processes can distort the stored memory, leading to inaccuracies and forgetfulness.

3. What is interference, and how does it impact memory and forgetfulness?

  • Interference occurs when competition from new material or other memories disrupts the retrieval of specific information. It can lead to forgetfulness as memories become confused or distorted by interference.

4. What are the two main types of interference that can cause forgetfulness?

  • The two main types of interference are retroactive interference (when new learning interferes with old learning) and proactive interference (when old learning interferes with new learning).

5. What are the principles that govern interference, as mentioned in the text?

  • The principles governing interference include the greater the similarity between two sets of material, the more the interference, meaningless material being more susceptible to interference than meaningful material, and the difficulty of the distracting task between learning and recall affecting interference.

6. How can students minimize interference to reduce forgetfulness?

  • Students can minimize interference by arranging their study sessions so that they don’t study similar subjects in one day. Studying unrelated subjects can reduce interference and potentially lead to better academic performance.

7. What is the concept of “failure of retrieval,” and how does it relate to forgetfulness?

  • Failure of retrieval refers to the inability to recall information even when it is stored in memory. This is often experienced as the “tip-of-the-tongue” phenomenon. Relaxing and not stressing about recalling the information can often lead to successful retrieval.

8. What is context-dependent forgetting, and how can it be used to improve memory?

  • Context-dependent forgetting is when the context in which information was learned can influence memory recall. Using cues or recalling the context in which the material was learned can help students recall forgotten information during exams.

9. What are the four important applications often misused that can lead to forgetfulness?

  • The four important applications that can lead to forgetfulness are attention (lack of sustained focus), storage (failure to transfer information into long-term memory), usage (not revisiting or applying information), and transfer (difficulty applying abstract concepts to new situations).

10. How can students improve their memory and reduce forgetfulness?

  • Students can improve their memory by paying sustained attention, ensuring information is transferred into long-term memory, revisiting and using learned material, and practicing the application of abstract concepts to various situations. The text also suggests using memory improvement techniques and studying smartly.

11. How can individuals seek expert advice on memory issues, improving scores, or career counseling?

  • Individuals looking for expert guidance on memory issues, academic improvement, or career counseling can book an appointment with psychological consultants who can provide advanced techniques and assistance.

About the Author:

Prapoorna Mangalampalli, Psychologist

Prapoorna, an author with dual master’s degrees in Psychology and English, excels in exploring and enhancing human experiences. Her writing, characterized by deep empathy and insight, primarily focuses on the complexities of counseling, spanning areas such as online, marital, relationship, child, family, and career counseling. Specialized training in various counseling sectors underscores her dedication to positive change. In her blogs, Prapoorna offers valuable guidance and a unique perspective for parents of children with Autism and special needs, creating a supportive community in this realm.

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