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Being Forgetful Is Not A Flaw – It Actually Helps You Make Smarter Decisions, Study Says


Have you ever felt that you no matter how hard you try to memorize something, you somehow always end up forgetting things?

I know I have. It happened a few years ago.

Since then, I started using alarms, notebooks, planners, sticky notes and all sorts of reminds to keep myself organized.

But, even though writing down the things I need to do helps me a lot, I’m still bothered by the fact that my brain cannot always memorize everything.

Luckily, I’ve recently come across a very interesting read that kind of lift my spirits and gave me hope.

Do you know those people who are constantly bragging about having a brilliant memory?

Well, it’s pointless. Believe me.

Because, according to a study published in Journal Neuron, forgetting things is not just normal, it can actually make you smarter.

Researchers Paul Frankland and Blake Richards of the University of Toronto who elaborated on this subject, explain that the main purpose of the memory is not to transmit information, but rather to optimize our decision-making process by saving the important parts of our experiences and letting go of the unnecessary memories that are only cluttering our brains.

“It’s important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that’s going to help make decisions in the real world,” says Richards, an associate fellow in the Learning in Machines and Brains program.

They concluded this after analyzing the data on memory loss, brain activity and memory in humans and animals. In one of their studies that included mice, they found that as the new brain cells developed in the hippocampus (the part of the brain which is associated with learning) the older memories were harder to access.

And according to them, the process of forgetting old memories for the sake of the new ones has truly great benefits.  “If you’re trying to navigate the world and your brain is constantly bringing up conflicting memories, that makes it harder for you to make an informed decision,” says Richards.

It is also important to mention that our brains help us forget about the details or the small fragments about certain past events, but at the same time they memorize the big picture, which makes us more capable of analyzing our previous experiences and apply them to our current situations.

“We all admire the person who can smash Trivial Pursuit or win at Jeopardy, but the fact is that evolution shaped our memory not to win a trivia game, but to make intelligent decisions,” says Richards. “And when you look at what’s needed to make intelligent decisions, we would argue that it’s healthy to forget some things.”

But, what does this mean for those of us who are really forgetful?

Well for one, it means that we should stop worrying about it. Of course, having a very bad memory and forgetting a lot more than normal can actually be symptoms of something bigger. And if you’re experiencing that, you should probably have yourself checked.

“But if you’re someone who forgets the occasional detail, that’s probably a sign that your memory system is perfectly healthy and doing exactly what it should be doing,” says Richards.

According to him, our brains should no longer use their storage for memorizing phone numbers or small facts that can be easily saved on our phones. Because instead of making space for such irrelevant information that can be stored in our tech-gadgets, we need to declutter our brains from all the unnecessary memories and make space for the ones that actually matter.

Furthermore, he highly recommends cleansing our memory by exercising on a regular basis. Staying physically active increases the number of neurons in the hippocampus. As mentioned earlier, that might result in losing certain past memories, “but they’re exactly those details from your life that don’t actually matter, and that may be keeping you from making good decisions.” says Richards.

So, it seems that having a short-term memory is not so bad, after all.

How many of you are forgetful geniuses?

Don’t forget to share your story with us.

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