Cue-dependent forgetting is also known as retrieval failure. If a person is not able to recall information without memory cues, this is known as cue-dependent theory. There are three main components of cue-dependent formatting theory. These components are semantic cues, state-dependent cues and context-dependent cues. Sometimes, there is also a possibility that a person is not able to recall the information simply with the help of cues. Under such a situation, he will have to think about something that is associated with it.

For example, if a person is not able to recall the memories of a trip during the vacations and someone tells him that he has hired a car for trip during the vacations and he is able to recall other information that is associated with it like what he has eaten during the trip and where he has stayed during the trip, this is known as cue-dependent forgetting theory with the help of recalling the associated information. The cues of cue-dependent forgetting theory are explained below;

1) Semantic cues

According to a theory, most of the people remember the same group of words that belong to the same category. Such words that are easily recalled with the help of the associated words, these words come into semantic cues. The semantic cues also depend upon the phonetic quality of the words.

2) State-dependent cues

Such cues that are governed by the state of mind are known as state-dependent cues. These kinds of cues usually happen at the time of encoding. Some key cues that come into state-dependent cues are upset, happy and anxious.

3) Context-dependent cues

The cues that are dependent on the environment and situation are known as context-dependent cues. In order to get an idea about the context-dependent cues, an experiment was conducted. In this experiment, some people were divided into two groups and they were asked to learn some specific words under the water and on the land. After that, these two groups were asked to recall these words on the land and under the water. The group of people on the land was able to recall only 38% words whereas the group of people under the water was able to recall only 32% words.

Causes of forgetting

An inability of a person to forget some things is known as forgetting. Some causes of forgetting are explained below;

1) Faulty memory process

Sometimes, there is a possibility that we listen to many details but it is hard for us to remember the specific portion of these details. In other words, we just remember the distortions of the details. At that time, we think that we forget this specific portion of the detail because we are not able to remember the accurate representation of these details.

2) Interference

In our daily life, most of the people forget different things due to the interference of the learnt material. There are two possible causes of interference. First is known as proactive inhibition in which it is difficult for us to inhibit and learn the new material. Second is known as retroactive inhibition in which a person is not able to recall specific information after learning it.

3) Retrieval problems

Retrieval is known as a necessary thing for the recalling process. Its reason is that some retrieval cues and reconstructive processes are helpful for us to recall a specific amount of information. The main function of these retrieval cues is to direct the memory search with the appropriate part of the LTM section. If we don’t provide retrieval cues, we are not able to find these items that are stored in the LTM section. This kind of activity also leads a person to forget.

4) Amnesia

Loss of memory is known as amnesia. If a person forgets all the information that is stored in memory, this kind of disorder is known as amnesia. There are different kinds of amnesia. First is known as childhood amnesia in which a person is not able to recall his childhood memory. Second is known as dream amnesia in which a person is not able to recall the actual content of the dream. The third is known as defensive amnesia in which a person is not able to recall his name and some other basic things.


If a person is not able to recall some specific information without cues, this kind of situation is known as cue-dependent forgetting. Three possible cues of this theory are semantic cues, state-dependent cues and context-dependent cues. The possible causes of forgetting are faulty memory process, interference, retrieval problems and amnesia etc.

Ana Rodulf is a content writer and blogger affiliated with The Dissertation Writing Services. Her favorite subjects are social sciences, media, and communications as well as the latest tech trends.