What is memory inhibition?
Memory inhibition is a psychological ability which relates to an individual being able to not remember information which is considered irrelevant to their brain. Memory inhibition is also related to the concept of forced memory inhibition, more commonly called repressed memories, in which an individual has repressed memories which may be related to abuse, violence or other trauma. Memory inhibition is actually considered to be a vital part of any memory system. Most memories created within a lifetime are eventually forgotten--if they were not, this would simply become too taxing on the brain and could create problems with creating new memories as the years go on. As an individual gets older, more of their memories are usually forgotten or otherwise impaired, while or inhibited. For example, as a teenager an individual might remember many particular events during their childhood years at an elementary school and be able to call up more details, such as names and places or even dates. That same person as an adult might remember only a choice few instances from their childhood and even less--if any--particular details. This is because of memory inhibition, which has inhibited irrelevant memories, such as those which are not thought of often, to make room for more information in the brain.
A more common and everyday example of memory inhibition is to think of an individual stepping into a parking lot. They want to remember where they parked their car. Without memory inhibition, every place they had ever parked their car might come up in their memory. With memory inhibition, they are able to narrow down the memory of parking their car to more recent events. In this way, memory inhibition creates a more useful and effective memory system.
Forced memory inhibition is considered a controversial psychological concept, although it has essentially entered the everyday vernacular and is regularly featured on film, television shows, documentaries and other forms of media. The concept of forced memory inhibition states that an event can be so traumatic to the mind that, in order to cope with the effects of the memory, the brain forcibly inhibits or represses it. It’s important to note the key difference between forced memory inhibition and regular memory inhibition. Regular memory inhibition occurs every day without a conscious effort on the part of an individual. Memories which are inhibited regularly are those which are irrelevant to the current situation or lives of an individual—for example, every place they have ever parked their car or every time they have ever fallen down in public. Forced memory inhibition, on the other hand, involves the inhibition of memories which are considered psychologically important but have been inhibited—or repressed—by the mind in order to shield the individual from a psychological breakdown or an otherwise even more traumatic experience. For example, an individual who experienced sexual abuse as a young child may find that the memory has been forcibly inhibited during their teen years.
The idea of forced memory inhibition is still a controversial subject in the psychological world. Some do not believe that memories can really be repressed on such a level that the individual has completely forgotten about them, particularly traumatic events such as sexual abuse, experiencing violence, or witnessing a violent act against another. Some studies have shown that people who believe they have repressed memories are much more likely to experience false memories, or memories which they believe to remember but are actually entirely fictional scenarios created by their mind. Studies have also shown that people who experience something traumatic are much more likely to remember the incident, especially in detail, rather than forget it. Still, research for forced memory inhibition is still ongoing and more may be learned about this phenomena in the future. Recent studies have shown that through NLP training
, people may have a positive effect on recovering forcibly inhibited memories, as through NLP training
people may be able to differentiate between false memories and actual memories.
What is the history of memory inhibition?
The idea of memory inhibition has always been a vital part of the study of psychology. Studies published as early as 1894 contained theories and practices related to the concept of memory inhibition. In 1894, two German scientists named Muller and Shuman conducted a series of psychological studies which related to memory. In one particularly influential study, they hoped to demonstrate how people's memory was inhibited by learning more information. They had a group memorize and learn a list of items and then memorize and learn a second list of items. The learning of the second list interfered or inhibited the individual's memory of the first list. Based on their results, they argued that an individuals' attention was based on facilitation, making it one of the first known psychological arguments relating to memory inhibition.
In 1902, a German psychologists named Wundt did his own studies on the possibility of memory interference. He believed that memory attention to one detail was really done through the inhibition of unrelated or irrelevant information. For example, to remember the details of the second list, the memory of the first list must be inhibited. In 1908, an American psychologist named Walter Pillsbury combined the arguments of both Muller and Wundt and released works which claimed that memory attention is done by both facilitating information that is desired and through the inhibition of information that is unwanted or not necessary.
However, the concept of inhibition largely disappeared during the 1920s through the 1950s with the popularity of behaviorism in the psychological world. It was not until the 1970s that the behaviorist theory of classical interference began to wane in popularity and the role that memory inhibition plays in memory was once again in the spotlight. Research and studies related to memory inhibition continue to this day.