Having a sharp and accurate memory is definitely something that’s rather useful at school when you’re supposed to learn multiplication tables or at work when you’re trying to remember a co-worker’s name.
Nevertheless, we’re all guilty of forgetting names and facts. And sometimes when you go to the grocery store and forget the most important thing on the list, you might feel bad because of it.
You might also be wondering why it’s so easy to forget even the simplest things. But, as it turns out, there’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, you should be proud of this.
According to a paper published in the Neuron Journal, forgetting is a natural brain process that could eventually make you even smarter.
Researchers from the University of Toronto conducted several studies that focused on the neurobiology behind remembering and forgetting. It seems these two processes interact with one another, leading to “intelligent decision-making in dynamic, noisy environments.”
Even though we’re led to believe the person who remembers the most things is the smartest, forgetting the occasional detail is normal.
The author of the review study, Professor Blake Richards, believes the real purpose of memory is the optimization of decision-making. The brain does this by focusing on the big picture and filtering out irrelevant details. It holds onto things that will contribute to making intelligent decisions in the real world.
Therefore, ‘bad memory’ is a mechanism in the brain that’s used to quickly make room for relevant information and not allow the brain to waste energy and space by remembering trivial and mundane information.
The brain doesn’t perceive the ‘facts’ as facts. It focuses on creating a general picture of the events or a simpler version of some information, which could be used as a method for making better decisions later.
So, learning by heart, something that is impossible for those who tend to forget things, is not something the brain would willingly do.
And the more you forget these ‘facts’, the more your brain works towards storing the most relevant information from them into a more general picture, and keeping a more keen perception of reality.
Richards says that information that could be easily accessed, like facts you can find on Google or phone numbers, isn’t something your brain would remember. Instead, the brain will free up this space to save information that’s really important to remember.
When you think about it, remembering someone’s face is more important than remembering their name. If you try to imagine yourself in the animal kingdom, remembering someone or something’s face is what will keep you alive, and not their name.
It’s also advisable to do a regular ‘clean-up’ of our memory. This can be done by going to the gym or doing other kinds of physical exercise regularly. Exercise is beneficial since it increases the number of neurons in the hippocampus.
In turn, this increase in the hippocampus will erase some memories. But, don’t worry, your brain’s aware what you need to remember and what you don’t.
By no means, it’s alright to forget everything. However, it’s perfectly fine and healthy to forget or overlook a minor detail every once in a while.
So, being forgetful isn’t that bad after all. And the next time you forget something, remember it’s just your brain doing its normal job.