If you are one of those who keep forgetting mundane things that people usually like to remember, now it’s the time to know that you can be rather proud of this. And if you feel like you don’t have to know everything, your brain strongly agrees. In fact, selective memory can be a sign of stronger intelligence.
Memory As A Sign Of Intelligence
In the beginning, let’s see what memory is in the broader sense and what types of memory exist, and how memory and intelligence are linked one to another. Memory has always been perceived as the strongest of mental traits. It is an important aspect of cognition, that involves not just remembering, but also other aspects such as attention, insight, reasoning, abstract thinking, imagination, and appreciation of beauty.
Memory is generally believed and seen as a storage space, but, quite on the contrary memory presents a series of processes that are used for storing and encoding information that is later used for retrieval. Our ability to do these processes change as we age, but the rate and the amount change per individual, and it is not always determined by someone’s biological age. According to some studies, we can take some actions during life to prevent memory loss and deterioration of the brain cells.
Different Types Of Memory
The most common division of the memory is into:
- Long-term memory ( events and knowledge from the past) and
- Short-term memory ( recent events and knowledge)
There is another way to classify memory into:
- Implicit memories ( skills and procedures that you can learn such as dancing, driving, playing some sports, and other types of procedures) and
- Explicit memories ( things that we retrieve consciously and can describe with words (people, places, and some facts).
Working Memory Has A Strong Relationship With Intelligence
There is another type of memory that has a strong relationship with intelligence and that is the working memory, i.e. the ability to retain and manipulate information in your brain, as in doing mathematics calculations. In some studies has been found that having a poor working memory leads to low results in school. In addition, this type of memory is very important for writing down dictates and the inability to learn. This applies especially to school children and they need to seek another method of teaching and learning to achieve better results.
Therefore, this type of memory can strongly influence your intelligence because this is the ability to retrieve and apply stored information from your brain when you need to solve a problem. Solving problems quickly can be defined as intelligence as in solving mathematical problems. People who tend to solve mathematical problems quickly can store data longer in their long-term memory and retrieve it quickly when needed and are considered intelligent.
We can conclude that working memory and intelligence are the two sides of the same coin.
Still, working memory can be affected by many things such as stress, which can give a false impression of someone’s intelligence and lack of intelligence and you can train it during your life to achieve better results.
Forgetfulness And Remembering Act As Interactive Processes
Besides working memory, there are other signs that may indicate you have higher intelligence.
Forgetting small details like names and birthdays may be a sign of higher intelligence and of a genius according to scientific results.
The paper published in Neuron focused on several studies that analyzed the neurobiology behind remembering and forgetting. It turns out that these two processes interact with each other, allowing for “intelligent decision-making in dynamic, noisy environments.”
The author of the review study, Professor Blake Richards, explains that the real purpose of memory is the optimization of decision-making.
“You don’t want to forget everything, but if you’re forgetting a lot more than normal, that might be cause for concern,” he says. “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.”
Forgetfulness Can Be Linked To Intelligence
As previously mentioned, the goal of memory is selecting useful information and optimizing decision–making.
The brain achieves this by filtering out irrelevant details and holding on to things that will contribute to intelligent decisions in the real world.
‘Bad memory’ in this respect is actually a mechanism in the brain which serves to quickly make space for relevant information and not allow the brain to waste energy and space remembering the mundane and trivial information.
‘Facts’ are not what the brain perceives as facts. The brain focuses on creating a general picture of the events or a simplified version of some information, which could serve as a means to make better decisions later.
This means that learning by heart, something which is impossible for the ‘forgetful’ ones, is not something the brain would do gladly for you.
The more you forget such ‘facts,’ the more your brain works in adding the most relevant information from them into a more general picture, and thus a more keen perception of reality.
Forgetfulness and Memorizing Are Equally Important
In our mnemonic systems, transience (forgetting ) and persistence ( memorizing) are equally important. (1)
Neurobiological research focuses mainly on the cellular mechanisms that are involved in storing information rather than forgetting or the inability to remember due to the failure of the mechanisms involved in storing the needed information. But forgetfulness can also be very helpful, and it has been found that it can help in the following:
How can forgetfulness help us?
1. Forgetfulness helps us to forget the old information
As already mentioned, it helps us forget outdated information and information that is not valuable and clears up space for new information on some situations and people. This is done by creating new neurons in our hippocampus that can overwrite the existing memories that might influence our decision-making.
Researchers say that there are two reasons why we tend to forget information;
1. We are constantly faced with new problems, and our lives are changed, so bringing different conflicting memories, can make it harder to make the right and informed decision.
2. The other reason is related to a concept known in artificial intelligence as regularization. This principle teaches the computer models to make generalizations that are based on large amounts of data. This way, they prioritize the important information needed for making a decision.
If you want to increase neurons in your brain, try exercising and try aerobic exercises like walking, jogging, and swimming which have been found to increase the number of neurons in your brain.
2. Forgetfulness helps us to see the big picture
If you start forgetting too much, it can be a cause for concern, but if you occasionally forget some details, it means that your brain is healthy. Researchers say that our brains encourage generalization and help us to remember the most important points of the conversation or the event, and it doesn’t focus on the minor past details. When you memorize the bigger picture, it allows you to generalize the previous experiences better compared to just remembering every single detail of the said conversation or event.
One of the things that can help to memorize is the consistent environment and the how likely it is that the same things come back to your life. For example, suppose you meet the same client regularly, and you work as an analyst. In that case, your brain will recognize it more easily, while, on the other hand, if you meet him only once, the brain will weigh that information appropriately. Similarly, people working in a big department store will have difficulties remembering the customers they meet every day compared to people who work in a small boutique and have regular customers.
To put this into greater perspective, experts explain that information that is easily accessible, like facts you can find on Google or phone numbers, is not something your brain is likely to remember. Instead, the brain will free this space up to store information that is truly necessary to remember.
So, do not get offended when you are criticized for being absent-minded in the future because our brains work smarter when they try to remember the right story, not every story.
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A professional writer with over a decade of incessant writing skills. Her topics of interest and expertise range from health, nutrition and psychology.