Freud believes that you never lose anything from memory. The information is stored on an unconscious level. He says that we protect ourselves from memories that cause us distress or anxiety, by repressing them in our unconscious so we don’t consciously experience the feelings. However it is not believed to be very psychologically healthy and if prolonged, could cause mental disorder. There is some evidence that could prove that Freud’s theory is correct. Parkin (1993) found people who are suffering from post – traumatic stress disorder, repression of traumatic events does often occur in them.
However, even though this does seem to fit in with Freud’s theory and motivated forgetting did occur, it had a more positive effect on the individual because they had adjusted much better to their traumatic experiences compared to those who kept recalling the details of their traumatic events. Similarly, Kaminer and Lavie (1991) found that the survivors of the Holocaust were often judged to be better adjusted when they didn’t recall the traumatic events they had experienced compared to those who did recall them. They did not recall them in order to protect themselves from the trauma.
In some other cases, Herman and Schatzow (1987) found 28% females who were victims of incest said they had found it difficult recalling other events from childhood. Williams (1992) found 38% of African women whom when they were seventeen had been abused, reported repressed memories of the abuse. Elliot (1995) surveyed 500 people about their memories of traumatic events they might have experienced. 20% of the people said there was a time when they had not been able to recall the details of the traumatic events. This was because they repressed the traumatic experiences.
From this kind of research that has taken place, in theses cases it does seem that motivated forgetting does occur but in a relatively small proportion of the cases. Also, there is a problem with this kind of research. On verifying the findings there isn’t any way of knowing for sure that the events reported by the participants actually occurred. So we cannot determine whether the people’s inability to recall the events is due to motivated forgetting or due to the fact that they never actually happened. There is evidence that people will still recall details of traumatic events that never really happened.
Pynoos and Nader (1989) reported the case of the schoolboy who recalled experiencing a shooting that had taken place in his school, even though he was actually on holiday when the shooting took place. Motivated forgetting has also been investigated using the concept of ‘failure feedback’. Participants learn some information. They are then tested on the information and are then told they had done badly. This is supposed to create anxiety so they repress the information they have learned because they don’t want to feel anxious.
So when they are tested again, on the same information, they will remember less because they have repressed it. This has the advantage that it is experimentally generated so we know that the recall of the information is actually true. There have been some investigations done on motivated forgetting in the laboratory using the concept of failure feedback. D’Zurilla (1965) did find that when failure feedback occurred, participants’ memories were worse than when failure feedback didn’t occur so supporting the idea of motivated forgetting.
Rationale We are going to use D’Zurilla’s method to see if motivated forgetting occurs. This experiment that we are going to do will test the participants memory by using a number of tests. This will help to prove if motivated forgetting does or doesn’t occur using the concept of failure feedback. Also we’re checking to see if we can replicate similar results to D’Zurilla. It’s not an exact replication of D’Zurilla’s study but we’re checking if failure feedback could affect memory.