The “I Can’t Remember” Effect: The Mental and Physiological Phenomenon

mental and physiological reasons for forgetfulness

If you are dealing with memory issues, you might be curious about the mental and physiological reasons for forgetfulness. Here is a short overview of the science of forgetting.

Short-Term to Long-Term

Sometimes, you forget things simply because you stored them in the wrong place.

Short-term memory can typically retain 5 to 9 pieces of information at the same time. These memories are mainly stored in your pre-frontal lobe. Long-term memory can hold information for years by storing it in various parts of the brain.

Learning is the process of trying to move new information from your short-term memory into your long-term memory. But if you don’t succeed in doing that, you’ll forget new information very soon, and you won’t be able to retrieve it later.

The Passage of Time

Decay theory says that time is what causes you to forget things. When it comes to short-term memory, this process is automatic. But why do long-term memories fade away with time?

When you don’t use a pathway in your brain for a long time, it becomes more difficult and then impossible for synapses to pass through. To stop this from happening, you need to keep memories fresh by recalling the information every now and again.

New Memories Cause Interference

The more new information your brain has to record, the likelier it is to combine and confuse things.

Similar kinds of memories are stored in the same parts of your brain. If whatever you’re learning is close to something you already know, nearby synapses are activated. This causes stored data to meld together.

Other Reasons

There are a few more mental and physiological reasons for forgetfulness, such as brain trauma or illnesses that impact your brain. Additionally, intense emotions can interfere with the way your brain stores things, so you should take into account emotional causes, too.


It’s a good idea to study the mental and physiological reasons for forgetfulness. As we age, our memories fade away and get overwritten. This is natural, but sometimes it can happen too intensely or too quickly.

The best solution is to go over stored memories many times, and thus keep your brain’s pathways active.


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