chapter  1
22 Pages

Forgetting: Preliminary considerations

ByHENRY L. ROEDIGER III, YANA WEINSTEIN, AND POOJA K. AGARWAL

Of all the common afflictions from which humankind suffers, forgetting is probably the most common. Each of us, every day, forgets something we wish we could remember. It might be something we have done, something we intended to do, a fact, a name of a person or restaurant, and so on ad infinitum. As we age, our incidents of forgetting increase and we worry more about them. A whole industry of books, tapes, and even new mental gymnasia has grown up to deal with the cognitive frailties of old age, the primary one being rampant forgetting. Compared to other nuisances of life, forgetting probably tops the list. The “common cold” is actually quite rare compared to forgetting in all its manifestations. As Underwood (1966) wrote: “Forgetting is a most exasperating and sometimes even painful phenomenon” (p. 542). More recently, Nairne and Pandeirada (2008) maintained that for most people “forgetting is a scourge, a nuisance, a breakdown in an otherwise efficient mental capacity” (p. 179), although they quickly noted that there is often an adaptive value in forgetting too.