Scientists Say That The More Things You Forget, The Smarter You Are
Forgetfulness is good for the brain!
You know what it's like to forget someone's name who you just met, or not knowing where the TV remote is even though you just had it less than a minute ago. It can be frustrating when these memory lapses happen. There is good news, however, for all of the forgetful minds out there. It turns out that letting go of information is exactly what your brain is supposed to do.
Why is it that we remember some things and not others? It’s because of a process called encoding. Encoding is when information gets committed to memory. The more frequently your mind remembers something, the easier a time it has bringing that memory up again in the future.
When was the last time you forgot the name of an immediate familiy member? That’s why If you don’t want to forget the person’s name who you just met, the best thing to do is repeat it as many times as possible. If that person doesn’t show up in your life or thoughts again for a while, the smartest and most natural thing to do is to forget it.
University of Toronto researchers Blake Richards and Paul Franklin have conducted a study which brings to light the reason for why we forget some things and remember others. According to them, we forget the things that are not important in order to remember the things that are. These researchers studied data on both the human and animal brain to reach this conclusion. In fact, the trading of old memories for new ones is an evolutionary process that helps us stay updated on what's relevant so as not to make mistakes.
Memories are stored in an area of the brain called the hippocampus. This is also the region responsible for learning new things. When new connections form in the hippocampus, these pathways replace old ones which in turn become more challenging to access. This natural phenomenon helps us to avoid conflicting information that makes decision making difficult.
Richards states that in today’s society, it’s not necessary as it once was to store information such as phone numbers and things that can be easily looked up on Google. In other words, there is more utility in knowing how to look up how to do something than in actually knowing how to do it. Anything that our cell phones can do for us our brains consider irrelevant, and space is made to store the memories that are useful. Forgetting certain details may actually make you smarter.
Another utility of forgetting things is that it assists in adapting to new situations. For example, if a friend moves to another part of town, there is no longer a need to remember where their old residence was. Since the brain doesn’t have unlimited storage space, it makes sense that your friend's former apartment is a piece of information that is taking up real estate where something more critical could go.
Forgetting also helps us generalize things that allow us to navigate the world more efficiently. When going to visit your friend in their new place for the first time, you are paying attention to every detail of the way to make sure you arrive at the correct location. The next time you drive over there, however, you can successfully reach your destination by not having to read the street signs. Your brain now knows the way.
The researchers also recommend clearing out your memory by exercising on a regular basis. It has become a known fact that exercise increases the number of neurons in the hippocampus. This causes us to lose some memories, but only the details that don’t matter. Hanging onto these irrelevant memories can hold you back from making better decisions. It won’t matter next week where you parked your car at the store. The pin number to your bank card, on the other hand, is not something your mind will let go of so easily.
Our brains truly do have a mind of their own. They delegate tasks to outside sources, such as cell phones or the internet, to have space for the things that only they alone can do. Has there ever been anything extremely important that you forgot? The next time you can’t remember a new coworker’s or neighbor’s name, know that it’s just because you’re too smart for that.
Make sure your most forgetful friends see this.