Cognitive Ignorance and Selective Memory

Cognitive Ignorance and Selective Memory

Has it happened to you that you meet someone who says he knows you but no matter how much you try you don't remember him? When you meet someone, cognitively you make the decision as to whether or not the individual has interest in youWhen this is not the case, the process of cognitive ignorance. There are other factors that could influence the apparent “forgetfulness, therefore, to be classified as such, other criteria, such as those of neurophysiological origin, should be excluded, as perception, and especially attention and memory are complex cognitive functions that tend to be selective.


  • 1 The importance of first impressions
  • 2 What other factors come into action with “cognitive ignorance”?
  • 3 Cognitive ignorance and selective memory
  • 4 Prejudices and stereotypes as psychosocial factors of cognitive ignorance
  • 5 Improve the recovery of personal data in 6 steps

The importance of first impressions

People are constantly making judgments about what surrounds us and the people we meet on our way, this is a process that we carry out mainly unconsciously, because we have a natural tendency to make assessments, this can help us distinguish certain characteristics in others, with which a classification is made. This process usually occurs unconsciously.

When we meet a person we did not know before, it is said that we start from zero contact, if for different reasons we establish contact with her, at the beginning it is usually superficial and it is decided whether or not the person has any interest for us. If you have qualities that attract our attention or we find it attractive in some way, we are sure to remember you, otherwise the action will come into action. cognitive ignorance.

In case the person lacks interesting attributes in some sense for the other individual and does not stand out much among the others, the subject can “be forgotten”, or what is more precise: your memory will be stored but the recovery of the memory will be inaccessible, this process is known as: cognitive ignorance (Rodin, 1987).

What other factors come into action with "cognitive ignorance"?

The phenomenon of cognitive ignorance comes into play with the help of other processes such as: attention and selective memory; likewise, the cognitive biases, among which the halo effect stands out, between other types of rankings. Also, sociocultural factors such as prejudices and stereotypes, because they collaborate with the aspect of the classification we make of people, these aspects influence the way we perceive the reality that surrounds us; cognitive ignorance is a subjective process, it depends on the particular context of each person.

Cognitive ignorance and selective memory

This is a topic that has interested the cognitive psychology. There are objects and people that may seem to be "easily forgotten"; the cognitive process of the memory, allows the brain to encode and store the information it capturesHe is even able to keep memories of those you are not aware of, so why can't you remember that person who seems to know you?

The memory operates in a similar way to a computer, it has the capacity to store large volumes of information, however, a classification system is required to identify the location and “update” of the retained files to be able to use them at the moment just when they are needed, this would correspond to data recovery, a key phase of memory that allows access to all the information that is stored.

When the brain perceives that something lacks “relevance,” it filters the information and classifies it as such, and even though it stores it, it keeps it in shape, which can sometimes prevent it from recovering or accessing that memory.

In case the difficulty in remembering the name of the people often happens or it is not possible to identify very well where it is that they know them, it is necessary to rule out physiological and neurological factors for which forgetting could have been generated, when problems Memory are frequent, it is advisable to go to a psychologist, who can give you strategies to work on the improvement of a process as important as memory, the mnemonic techniques They may be some of them.

Prejudices and stereotypes as psychosocial factors of cognitive ignorance

Throughout the development, people meet others and face situations that often respond with typical behavior patterns, Cognitive ignorance can be one of them. Human beings tend to "tag" people. Some research has shown that positive affect leads to pleasure, while negative affect leads to dislike (Krosnick et al., 1992). The interpersonal attraction factors,They play an important role in this process.

The stigmata, They are negatively perceived characteristics, as they can be for some people: race, age, sex, religion, physical condition, sexual preference, among others, aspects with which they can develop a negative association for some reason.

Although a stigma is transcended, the affection associated with the previous stigma does not necessarily dissipate. ”Rodin & Price, 1995.

The stereotypes, they have great influence on the perception of different aspects of our daily reality, when they lack flexibility, or are too rigid, they can be too simple and limited to determine a person or a social group, many stereotypes are based on social stigmas and prejudices .

The new generations must be trained with a more inclusive and global culture, where prejudices and socio-cultural stigmas are not a “wall” that divides people, that generates hatred and violence between peers, but represents an opportunity to join efforts to achieve better results, through collaboration in prosocial causes, always under a scope of respect for the rights of those who are different from ourselves.

The conduct performed is an insignificant part of the possible behavior.Man, at every moment, is full of unrealized possibilities" Lev Semiónovich Vygotsky

Improve the recovery of personal data in 6 steps

  1. When you meet someone try to put Attentionsince this one process is also selective, identify something characteristic in the person for which you can remember it later.
  2. Associates the image of the person, a particular feature in it that you choose, as well as its name, links this with some object and a place, which can serve you as a reference, so that you can facilitate the subsequent recognition of the location of that “file” or memory. For example: if the person is called "Margarita", perhaps you could build the image of a daisy in a green meadow.
  3. Imagine a “mental screen” and enter that data, visualizing this information in your mind, within the screen you created.
  4. Avoid prejudices. Try that your classification and the assignment of factors of easy association, are in an area of ​​respect for the particular characteristics of the person.
  5. Practice regularly. By doing this simple exercise frequently, you can improve that aspect of your memory and remember the people with whom you have had contact even superficially, otherwise psychological assistance is recommended.

You may be interested: Attention and behavior: selective attention and confusional state


Cognitive ignorance intervenes with complex cognitive processes such as perception, attention and selective memory, in turn, it is influenced by personal attraction factors, cognitive biases, psychosocial aspects such as prejudices and stereotypes. It is necessary to educate the new generations in an area of ​​respect and tolerance, build and promote a more inclusive and global culture, which participates in prosocial causes.

Memory can be improved by simple mnemonic techniques, when there is a more serious problem and "forgetfulness" is constant, it is advisable to visit a psychologist, who can help determine if this happens due to other causes that could affect health and the development of the person, otherwise it can collaborate for the improvement of social and cognitive skills.

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Bibliographic reference

  • Paez, D., Fernádez, I. et al. (2004). Social psychology, culture and education. Madrid: Editoral Pearson Education.
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