Mental block

A mental block is an uncontrollable suppression, or repression of painful or unwanted thoughts/memories. It can also be an inability to continue or complete a train of thought, as in the case of writer's block. In the case of writer's block, many find it helpful to take a break and revisit their topic. Another tactic that is used when people with mental blocks are learning new information is repetition. A similar phenomenon occurs when one cannot solve a problem in mathematics which one will normally consider it as simple. Mental blocks can be caused by physical disabilities or simply a lack of focus. Mental blocks are also often used to describe a temporary inability to recall a name or other information. A sudden cessation of speech or a thought process without an immediate observable cause, sometimes can be considered a consequence of repression.[1] Mental blocking can be a coping mechanism for mental illnesses such as hysteria, neurosis, and lack of pathology.[citation needed]

Incidental forgettingEdit

Forgetting curve could be associated with mental blocking. The forgetting curve was first described by Ebbinghaus as the natural loss of memory retention over time. Memories can also simply disappear over time from Trace decay which is the weakening of memories over time. This kind of decay stems from both the visual and verbal working memory. Although the triggers decay, some of the information remains stored. Interference is the phenomenon that a memory can be distorted due to the existence of related memories when it comes to retrieval.[2]

Associative blockingEdit

Associative blocking is explained as the effects of an interference during a retrieval[3]. Associative blocking can be caused by failure of cues that a specific target, this is because the cue is being replaced by a new cue that grows stronger. This causes the initial cue to deteriorate because each separated memory is competing for first access to the conscious when the shared cue is presented.


Unlearning is associated with two separate stimuli that are attached to a memory trace, the trace is then weakened because it isn't accessed often enough. When one attempted to recover said memory there is an error that happens when a different cue is presented.

Motivated forgettingEdit

Directed forgetting is another name for Motivated Forgetting, meaning that one is forgetting consciously any recent experience that was unwanted.

Cognitive control is known as the ability to access thoughts and memories, but as well as the ability to have control over unwanted thoughts surfacing from the unconscious. This kind of suppression can be linked to the think/no think (TNT) paradigm, which is practice that is designed to remind one of undesired life experiences that result in unwanted feelings, such as a first heartbreak, that one would normally try to avoid thinking about.

Also, repression a Freudian theory theorizes that it is a defense mechanism that destroys undesired feelings, ideas, and memories in the unconscious.[2] This defense mechanism is due to the attempt to resolve and eliminate psychological hurt.

When unwelcome reminders occur, people often try to exclude the unwanted memory from awareness. Stopping retrieval of an unwanted memory is known as ‘retrieval suppression’, a process that engages response override mechanisms formally similar to stopping a reflexive motor action.[4]


  1. ^ Langford, Tim. "Cascades School Resources Room". Lebanon Community Schools. Archived from the original on 2012-04-15. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
  2. ^ a b Baddeley, Alan (2015). Memory. 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY: Psychology Press. pp. 238–254. ISBN 978-1-84872-183-8.CS1 maint: location (link)
  3. ^ Hulbert, Justin C.; Shivde, Geeta; Anderson, Michael C. (2012-07-01). "Evidence Against Associative Blocking as a Cause of Cue-Independent Retrieval-Induced Forgetting". Experimental Psychology (in German). 59 (1): 11–21. doi:10.1027/1618-3169/a000120. ISSN 1618-3169.
  4. ^ Anderson, Michael C.; Hanslmayr, Simon (June 2014). "Neural mechanisms of motivated forgetting". Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 18 (6): 279–292. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2014.03.002. ISSN 1364-6613. PMC 4045208. PMID 24747000.