Trace Decay explains the limited duration of STM. Rehearsal continually renews the physical trace which otherwise would vanish. In LTM –Are there permanent memories – Brain damage and Degeneration are an example of physical alteration of the memory trace, it may occur through ageing, illness or injury.



With age more and more material will be stored and confused over time. There is Proactive interference- this is where material learnt first interferes with material learnt later. There is also Retroactive interference this is where material learnt at a later time interferes with material learnt earlier



Short term memory has a limited capacity 7+ or – items (Miller 1956 – Magic number 7)


Retrieval Failure

When discussing retrieval failure one needs to distinguish between Availability and Accessibility.


1) of memory refers to whether  the material is actually there to be retrieved i.e. it is not possible to retrieve what has not reached/lasted in long term storage

2) of memory which has been stored and then permanently lost i.e. prevention of consolidation(where memory fixation is disrupted) or trace decay (where memory traces gradually fade)


1) of memory refers to when information may be ‘hidden’ traumatic events may be hidden in the unconscious/repressed(Freud)

2) of memory refers to when information in memory is awaiting a suitable prompt.i.e. Tip of the tongue phenomena / or state/context dependent recall.


Lack of Consolidation


Information that has not become permanently fixed in LTM, also consolidated memory trace fades in strength over time


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