Are you a very forgetful person? Constantly having to write things down or add events to your diary so you’ll remember them. While it may seem like a weakness it might actually mean you’re smarter. Yep that’s right, having total recall might just be totally overrated.
According to a recent study in the Journal of Neuron, forgetfulness is normal and can mean we’re smarter. Researchers for the study propose that memory is not about transmitting the most accurate information. Instead it’s about knowing what information to store and what to let go.
“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 researcher Blake Richards.
About the study
Richards and fellow researcher Paul Frankland came to the conclusion after studying years of data on memory, memory loss and the brain.
The researchers say swapping old memories for new ones can have evolutionary 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 informed decisions,” says Richards. Thus, letting go of old memories in favour of new ones may help us adapt to situations.
Ultimately Richards and Frankland concluded that forgetfulness is healthy. “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.”
So what does this mean?
If you constantly forget where you put your car keys or something you just read, relax. Don’t be so hard on yourself, it just means your brain is busy storing more important information. “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.” says Richards.
When to worry
While occasional forgetfulness may be due to intelligent decision making there are some signs you should not ignore.
- If forgetfulness becomes persistent or severe
- When forgetfulness interferes with daily functioning
- If family or friends voice concerns over your memory declining