No matter what we are doing in life we are constantly needing to remember information, whether it is remembering how to get back home from a night out or remembering to call someone back, remebering is an important aspect of every day life. However, many different things can affect the amount a person can remember. A persons age can affect memory, stress levels and drug abuse.

Age. So we can all think of a time when an ‘older’ person has forgotton something, for example, where they left the television remote, this is because as we get older recall decreases (Hill et al, 2006). These proceeses start in our 20s and gets worse as we get into our 50s and older. This is because the synapses start to break down and we stop making these connections as easily. One theory of why this happens when we get older is the decrease of a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, this neurotransmitter helps with the learning of new information and decreased levels have been seen to prevent the recall of previously learned information (Hasselmo & Bower, 1993).

Stress. When I first enter an exam and look through the paper I often think I know the answers but I just cannot recall them, this happens until I calm down and think, the stress I feel just before an exam hinders my abililty to recall the information, and even hours after the exam I am still remembering things that I could not in an exam. Although most of the research into this area focuses on eye witnesses recall, research finds that hugh stress levels lead to a decraese in the recall of information (Kramer et al, 1992).

Drug abuse. Drug abuse, in particlaur, marijuana abuse has been reported to affect the thinking and the organisation of thoughts of those taking the drug. This is particularly worrying as it is becoming a more popular drug among teens, and these are the years for optimum learning, however, Block et al. (1992) found that marijuana does not cause long term damange to cognitive functioning, it only impairs it when the person is intoxicated. However, Seal et al (2012) found that when the drug was used heavily and frequently (over 15 years) it affects the brains ability to learn and remember, this is worse the younger the abuse starts.

8 thoughts on “Remembering

  1. Your blog raised an interesting notion on various factors involved in remembering information. However, it may have been beneficial to go into further detail about how this in turn affects learning in education. I personally feel that the factors that you noted of age, stress, and drug abuse can have a considerable impact on an individual’s learning and academic achievement in an educational setting.

    You detailed the fact that as a person ages, their ability to recall information decreases. McIntyre and Craik (1987) investigated this notion, finding that young adults recalled significantly more information than older adults. But what impact does that have on our education system today?

    I struggled to refer this to our education system, whereby individuals attend school at a very young age, but then I started to consider mature students at university and how this could impact on them. If an individual is at the age where their memory is beginning to decline, then this could make university studies more difficult in comparison to their younger peers. However, Trueman and Hartley (1996) found that academic performance in mature students compared to younger students was only modestly predicted by grades. Additionally, it was found that mature students scored significantly higher on meaning orientation, but significantly lower on recall orientation than younger students (Richardson, 1995). This suggests that memory decline could possible influence exam performance in mature students. In spite of this, mature students demonstrate the same or better academic performance as younger students (Richardson, 1994), which may be due to higher levels of intrinsic motivation (Murphy & Roopchand, 2003). The evidence you put forward does suggest that learning may be more difficult for those of an older age, however, the current research demonstrates that often mature students do just as well, if not better, than their younger counterparts. This would therefore suggest that, in reality, age does not impact dramatically on academic achievements in higher education.

    You also noted that stress has a negative impact on the recall of information. In addition to the research that you noted, Kirschbaum, Wolf, May, Wippich, and Hallhammer (1996) found that when stress was induced in healthy participants, they showed poorer memory performance than participants who were not exposed to a stressful stimulus. Additionally, the researchers tested the cortisol levels of participants, which confirmed that those with higher cortisol levels (associated with stress) showed impaired performance on the memory task. In educational settings, it has been found that students who experience higher levels of stress and anxiety before exams often demonstrate poorer performances in exams than those with low levels of stress and anxiety (Chapell et al., 2005). However, there are various studies that have found that stress can be reduced to improve academic performance and overall wellbeing of students. Akgun and Ciarrochi (2003) found that academic stress was negatively associated with academic performance, but that students who demonstrated learned resourcefulness had lower levels of academic stress. They concluded that students should be taught learned resourcefulness in order to reduce stress and improve academic performance. Furthermore, Malathi and Damodaran (1999) found that when medical students undertook daily yoga sessions, levels of stress reduced and academic performance and subjective wellbeing increased. This indicates that physical and/or calming activities such as yoga, could be employed in educational students to increase academic performance and, more importantly wellbeing of students.
    You also noted the issue of drug abuse and how that impacts on learning, with research finding that individuals who use methamphetamine demonstrate significant cognitive impairments (Simon et al., 2000). However, there are some students who use drugs to aid academic performance. The extent of this issue can be demonstrated in research by DeSantis, Webb, and Noar (2008), finding that 34% of students questioned admitted to using ADHD stimulants to increase academic performance. Clearly, this is an issue in education that needs to be addressed with more focus on educating students about the dangers of taking drugs when trying to improve grades and concentration.

    Overall, age, stress, and drug abuse can impact negatively on academic performance, although age to a lesser extent. It is therefore important that educators recognise these issues and apply the research in these areas to the way in which they teach children, young people, and adults.


    Akgun, A., & Ciarrochi, J. (2003). Learned resourcefulness moderates the relationship between academic stress and academic performance. Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology, 23(3), 287-294. doi: 10.1080/0144341032000060129

    Chapell, M. S., Blading, Z. B., Silverstein, M. E., Takashi, M., Newman, B., Gubi, A., & McCann, N. (2005). Test anxiety and academic performance in undergraduate and graduate students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97(2), 268-274.
    doi: 10.1037/0022-0663.97.2.268

    DeSantis, A. D., Webb, E. M., & Noar, S. M. (2008). Illicit use of prescription ADHD medications on a college campus: A multimethodological approach. Journal of American College Health, 57(3), 315-323.

    Kirschbaum, C., Wolf, O. T., May, M., Wippich, W., & Hellhammer, D. H. (1996). Stress-and treatment-induced elevations of cortisol levels associated with impaired declarative memory in healthy adults. Life Sciences, 58(17), 1475-1483.
    doi: 10.1016/0024-3205(96)00118-X

    Malathi, A., & Damodaran, A. (1999). Stress due to exams in medical students – the role of yoga. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 43(2), 218-224.

    McIntyre, J. S., & Craik, F. I. (1987). Age differences in memory for item and source information. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 41(2), 175-192.
    doi: 10.1037/h0084154

    Murphy, H., & Roopchand, N. (2003). Intrinsic motivation and self-esteem in traditional and mature students at a post-1992 university in the North-east of England. Educational Studies, 29(2), 243-259. doi: 10.1080/03055690303278

    Richardson, J. T. E. (1994). Mature students in higher education: academic performance and intellectual ability. Higher Education, 28(3), 373-386.

    Richardson, J. T. E. (1995). Mature students in higher education: II. An investigation of approaches to studying and academic performance. Studies in Higher Education, 20(1), 5-17. doi: 10.1080/03075079512331381760

    Simon, S. L., Domier, C., Carnell, J., Brethen, P., Rawson, R., & Ling, W. (2000).
    Singh-Manoux, A., Kivimaki, M., Glymer, M., Elbaz, A., Berr, C., Ebmeier., … Dugravot, A. (2012). Timing on onset decline: Results from Whitehall II prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal, 344, 1-8. doi: 10.1136/bmj.d7622

    Trueman, M., & Hartley, J. (1996). A comparison between the time-management skills and academic performance of mature and traditional-entry university students. Higher Education, 32(2), 199-215.

  2. I’d like to focus on the effects that ageing has on memory. I feel it is too somplisitc to say that all elderly people will see their cognitive performance decline as they become older, I feel that the negative stereotyping that the elderly receive relating to age related deficits contributes to these defects occuring. This follows the principle of the self fulfilling prophecy (Azariadis, 1981) where people live up to the labels that are applied to them. Research conducted by Levy (1996) has demostrated that by concentrating on the positive stereotypes of ageing instead of negative stereotypes then memory loss is found to be much less.

    This can be applied to education by avoiding to the use of damaging labels that are applied to students like dyslexic, autistic, and generally lower ability as these can contribute towards students performing badly

  3. With regards to memory there is a lot of research out there about retrospective memory as opposed to prospective memory. As you mention in your ‘age’ section, you make a good example of an elderly individual forgetting where they left the tv controller. Reason (1984) investigated absent mindedness in relation to memory and argued that slips in memory are more likely to occur in familiar surroundings, if you are pre-occupied, if there are distractions, if there is time pressure of if your routine is changed, this can be applied to education obviously that routine, no distractions and no pressure will help to remember to do tasks. Meacham and Singer (1977) conducted a study and found that students were more likely to remember to complete a task if they had a monetary incentive. Perhaps if everything had a financial bonus people would be forgetting less regardless of age, stress or drug abuse?

  4. sorry forgot the references

    Meacham, J.A. and Singer, J. (1977). Incentive in prospective remembering. Journal of psychology, 97, 191-7.

    Reason, S.J. (1984). Absent mindedness and cognitive control. In J.E. Harris and P.E Morris, eds. Everyday Memory and Absent Mindedness. London: Academic Press.

  5. After reading what causes lack of memory and the research to support this, it’s a surprise we can really remember anything! This is interesting because one of the factors is stress. We all get stressed before and during exams. It has been confirmed that stress causes us to forget information because we get so worked up. Due to this, our academic performance decline which causes lowers grades. Why can’t we just switch off the stress with a press of a button?!

    You mentioned a lot of research through stress is in eye witness. Loftus and Palmer’s (1974) eyewitness study involving a car crash (on screen) demonstrated that the type of question asked can affect a person’s ability to remember information correctly.

    While reading your blog, I started thinking about my 3rd year project; retrieval Induced Forgetting (RIF) in bilingualism. Research has shown that attempting to remember one piece of information will cause forgetting in another. Levy, Marful and Anderson (2007) reported that an individual’s second language will have negative effects on their native language. If they repeatedly name objects in their second language it will decrease their ability to recall in their native language.

    Therefore language / bilingualism and the style of question asked can be added to the causes of the lack of remembering.

  6. I found some of your points very interesting. A study you might find useful was carried out by Stevens, Kaplan, Ponds, Diederiks and Jolles (1999) explored the relationship between lifestyle and memory to determine whether social factors influence memory. They found that activity and frequent contact with loved ones was related to higher memory scores, Those with higher scores were also younger (confirming what you mentioned about age), with better health and a stronger internal locus of control. Perceived memory strength also has an impact.Potentially, in fact, all of these factors relate to age, as contact with others and health are often correlated negatively with age.

  7. I wanted to concentrate on the aspect of stress. As stress seems to be such a huge part of (mine at least!) education, especially as we get older this seems to be hugely important to understand and work on!
    It’s been suggested that stress interferes with a person’s ability encode and recall information (Kuhlmann, Piel & Wolf, 2005). This, of course, has many implications in education. If a student goes to school stressed, they’re not going to encode anything that they are taught and not remember the information in the future. It also makes me think of studying for exams when stressed!

    I also found research that suggested when we are stressed, we will focus our attention on that negative feeling and the stimuli causing it, taking our attention away from what we are meant to be learning (Derryberry & Reed, 1994).

    Finally, it has been shown that exam performance significantly improved as stress levels lowered (Can’t seem to find a reference for this one, so here’s where I found it

    Derryberyy, D., & Reed, M. A. (1994). Temperament and attention: Prienting toward and away from positive and negative signals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 66, 1128-1130.

    Kuhlmann, S., Piel, M., & Wolf, O.T. (2005). Imparied Memory Retrieval after Psychosocial Stress in Healthy Young Men. Journal of Neuroscience, 25 (11), 2977-2982.

  8. I think its interesting how you have focussed on what effects our ability to remember things, but I feel its worth looking at things from the opposite perspective- does the we encode the information effect how well we can remember it later on? All the examples you have used of things we remember are those of neutral ones, although research has suggested that information is remembered better when they are memories linked to emotion, therefore assuming that it is a lot harder to forget information that is encoded emotionally. Nowicka et al (2011) suggested that during recall, information that was encoded with an emotion linked “strongly activated a distributed neural network in the right hemisphere”, so in order to forget this information an inhibition of this activation needs to take place. Maybe this could be linked into educational practice, as people suffering with dementia tend to be able to recall emotional information from “back in the day” but cannot remember that they hadn’t turned the hob off ten minutes ago…

    Nowicka, A., Marchewka, A., Jednoróg, K., Tacikowski, P., & Brechmann, A. (2011). Forgetting of emotional information is hard: an fMRI study of directed forgetting. Cerebral Cortex, 21(3), 539-549. Retrieved from

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