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There has been a continued debate regarding whether loss of information from an individual's memory is related to the length of time that elapses. It has been shown that time is a very important factor whose length contributes significantly in loosing acquired information from working memory, usually for visual stimuli that are unconventional. Some investigators believe that human beings forget the already acquired information because the relevant representations of memory are interfered by irrelevant occurrences (Farrell & Lewandowsky, 2002).
The presence of distracting tasks accelerates the loss of verbal information. A task is said to distract if it has a higher encoding strength and therefore having substantial weight is a short-term memory. Encoding of novel distracters causes the items in the weaker memory to be forgotten altogether. It has been shown that loss of information from the working memory can be avoided by use of covert repetition of the information and attentional refreshing (Cowan 1988). Nonverbal events will be considered for the working memory to be understood fully.
Some of the lost visual memories due to time, can be obtained through attentional refreshing (Vergauwe, Barrouillet, & Camos, 2009). Barrouillet et al. (2004) argue that information cannot be lost over time because attentional refreshing occurs frequently. According to (Baddeley, 1986), the rate at which an individual recalls the already encoded information depends on the cognitive load in the memory; the more the cognitive load the lower is the overall degree of recall, and the accuracy of recall changes in relation to Retention Interval (RI).
The RI duration affects accuracy of the visual array task, with extended delays bringing about reduced accuracy irrespective of the amount of cognitive load. This is the time-based effect and does not depend on cognitive load. Cognitive load is another condition that can result into the impairment to performance of memory. Large amounts of cognitive loads within a short period of time results in greater impairment to performance of memory.
The memory of unconditional characters can be lost in the absence of distracting events. In most cases, unconditional characters are lost from one's memory as they decay because of the increased length of time that elapses. Longer retention interval results into difficulties in retrieving an item from a long-term memory. Even if there are some means such as attentional refreshing and verbal rehearsal, that are used to retain the events in memory, there is a possibility that some means cannot be effective to retain events in memory depending on whether all the features of the unconditional characters are available.
It is also possible that many unconventional characters, which are considered as multiple chunks, can overload the working memory (Cowan, 2001). In adults, about four chunks seem to be the limit in the working memory. If this limit is exceeded, then it might not be possible to reactivate or retain all of the acquired unconditional characters before their decay. When some features of a given unconditional character are lost, the tendency of distinguishing the character from the probe can really be reduced, even when other features remain. Once some features are lost from unconventional characters, imperfect copies of the characters are retained within the working memory (Cowan, 1992).
With learning, the unconventional characters assume a verbalizable code while they get unified. A brain research have shown that a brain area known as intraparietal sulcus is responsible with visual information retention and it has been found that this area of the brain tracks both verbal and visual stimuli held within the working memory, and can act as the focus of attention (Baddeley, 2000). It is therefore possible that this area of the brain can determine whether an individual will forget visual information with extended period of time in the absence of distracting factors.