Have you ever walked into a room to get something to then only forget what you wanted to get? Or, have you ever spent ages writing a shopping list to later arrive at the store realizing you forgot to bring it with you? These are just a few of the many examples of how annoying forgetfulness can be. It happens to the best of us. However, some of us forget more than others. If you fall into this category, you’ll be pleased to hear The University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children has just published a fantastic piece of research.
What forgetfulness actually means
Having a bad memory isn’t necessarily a cause for concern; rather, according to this study, occasional forgetfulness could actually be a sign you’re above average intelligence. ‘How?’ we hear you cry. Well, this is the theory behind it all; forgetful people don’t recall ‘unnecessary’ details. Take the shopping list, for instance; they probably didn’t bring it with them because they have far more pressing things on their mind.
As such, if you remember every single detail all of the time, there’s a less likely chance you’re a good decision maker, as there’s so much info competing for space in your brain — make sense? The mastermind who reviewed these studies, Professor Blake Richards, believes the true purpose of our memories is to facilitate our ability to make decisions. Once we understand this, it becomes evident that forgetfulness (on occasion) can actually be an asset.
In light of this research, having a ‘bad memory’ is better defined as a mechanism that enables our brains to make room to hold info that’s actually pertinent to our every day lives As such, those with bad memories are less likely to waste their energy remembering trivial information. In short, the more we forget the mundane, the more space there is for our brains to focus on data that allows us to get a better perspective on real-world scenarios.
This is why learning things ‘by heart’ isn’t something that comes naturally to the majority of us. Our brains just aren’t programmed to do that sort of thing! For some of us, it can take months if not years to remember our cell phone numbers. You can find the entire paper we’re talking about published in the Neuron. Here you can read the full analysis of numerous studies that specifically look at the neurobiological processes that control both remembering and forgetting. The emphasis is on the links between the two processes and how these traits impact our ability to make intelligent decisions.
Start cleaning up your memory
Memory experts even suggest frequently ‘cleaning-up’ our memories. This is easily done by participating in physical exercise. So, hit the gym or go for a run in the park- by doing this you naturally increase the number of neurons in a section of our brains known as the hippocampus. This helps to relieve our brain of all the non-essential info that’s taking up valuable space, which in the long-run should improve your decision-making skills.
For years scientific research has focused on how the brain remembers information, so way less attention has been given to forgetfulness so these studies are a welcome change! The bottom line is, if you forget things from time to time you can stop worrying. The brains of smart people don’t hold onto facts or scenarios that are no longer ‘need.’ Instead, we only retain things that enable us to make intelligent decisions. This is something to be celebrated rather than flagged as a cause of concern!
Please be aware: if you’re suffering from excessive memory loss, then we highly recommend consulting with a medical professional.