People always forget about something and that is quite normal. Reason because the memory decays rapidly especially your short-term memory. Everyday, a lot of memories are established and most of them swiped out of our mind. However, some of our short-term memories are encoded into long-term memories through the process of rehearsal. People might wonder why sometimes I still cannot remember that long-term memory, that is because you missed one of the beauties of your memory, the retrieval cue. The cue can make you retrieve your long-term memory out of your mind.
I never realize that retrieval cues play an important role in my life until I learn that. In the past 19 years, there are lots of memorable moments in my life. However, I cannot always remember all of them. If you ask me to recall one of the most memorable moments in your life right now, I cannot do that. There is one thing that can help me recall my memory, and that is the retrieve cue.
In the past, I was always curious about why a simple stimulus can make me remember a bunch of memories. For instance, every year, we all are gathering in our grandparent’s house. For me, it is hard to recall my childhood when I was little. Nevertheless, once I get to the house, memories of my childhood simply acts like a stream flowing back to my mind. I start to remember how naughty I was when I was a kid. Just like watching movie, my memory becomes so vivid that I can hard to believe. Right now, I understand the house is actually the retrieval cue of my childhood memories. I can hardly recall that memories without the cue. Another example, once I smell a fragrance when I was walking on the street, suddenly I start to recall my girlfriend. I feel very strange. Eventually, I realize that the smell of the fragrance is come from the same perfume my girlfriend used. And the odor can simply become the retrieval cue, which makes me recall memories without consciousness. According to the textbook, the method I used is called “cued recall” and my experience “demonstrate that retrieval cues aid memory”(Goldstein, 2011).
However, retrieve cue can also sometimes fail you. There is a theory named retrieval failure theory. “Retrieval failure is where the information is in long term memory, but cannot be accessed”(McLeod, 2008). The information is your long-term memory, however, without the correct cue you can never remember that. I had that experience before. I was taking a memory quiz at that moment; I was trying to recall the name of a psychologist. I kept telling myself he was a British. However, no matter how hard I tried I cannot retrieve his name. Apparently, I was wrong about the retrieval cue. The psychologist is American. The long-term memory cannot be accessed due to the wrong cue or without cue.
In conclusion, retrieval cues are a crucial part of retrieve long-term memory process. With the support of cue, people can easily access the long-term memory without too much struggle. In contract, no cue or with wrong cue can make you hard to access you long-term memory even though you think you might remember that. Of course, the best way to remember is keep practicing and rehearsal. You cannot expect a simple cue can make you nail the exam and retrieve every piece of knowledge you learn. But retrieval cues are actually quite useful in many ways of your life.
Goldstein, E.B. (2011). Cognitive Psychology: Connecting Mind, Research, and Everyday Experience, Third Ed. Belmont, CA. Wasdworth, Cengage Learning.
McLeod, S. A. (2008). Forgetting. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/forgetting.html