According to The Latest Scientific Researches, Forgetting is a Sign That You Are Unusually Intelligent

Did happen to you to envy to some of your classmates just because they were able to memorize everything and all the exams seemed too easy for them? Were you thinking that those guys are way smarter than you?

The latest researches have proven this wrong!

Having a good memory doesn’t have to be a sign of high intelligence, the brain is actually set up only to remember some of the things and forget the rest.

Forgetting is just as important as remembering

According to Paul Frankland and Blake Richards, researchers from the University of Toronto, our brains are actively working to forget. After reviewing the literature on remembering known as persistence and the newer body of research on forgetting, known as transience, they came to the conclusion that forgetting is a component of our memory system that is just as important as remembering. Their study was published in the journal Neuron.

They present that the goal of the memory is to optimize intelligent decision making by holding only the pertinent information, not to retain the most accurate information. It’s much more important the brain to be focused on things that are going to help making decision in the real world than remembering irrelevant details.

When you don’t remember all the details of the conversation but you remember the gist, it means your brain doesn’t remember details, but has created a memory that will be useful to predict the future and to make the right decision.

Giving more attention to the process of forgetting

Till now, all the neurobiological researches have been focusing on the mechanisms that are connected with storing information, known as persistence, and much less attention was paid to those connected with forgetting, known as transience. It was believed that the incapability to remember comes from the failures of the mechanisms connected with storing information.

This is the breakthrough:

Paul Frankland, author of a new review study focusing on the role forgetting plays in memory, says that they have found plenty of evidences that prove the existence of mechanisms that promote memory loss, and that these mechanisms are completely different from the ones involved in storing information. So our brains are literally set up to work actively at forgetting, and for good reason.

So the question is what are the underlying mechanisms?

One of the mechanisms is the elimination of synaptic connection between the neurons in which the memories are encoded. Other mechanism, which is supported by evidence from Frankland’s own lab, is the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus.  Once the new neurons are combined into the hippocampus, they start to overwrite memories in the existing circuits and start to change them, making them even harder to access. This explains why the children forget so much information, when their hippocampuses are producing more new neurons.

Why do we forget?

So now you may wonder why the brain spends so much energy to store memories, but in the same time spends energy to forget information?

There are two good reasons why you may want to forget at least some of the information you come across, according to Richards.

Firstly, the world is constantly changing, so why to remember old information when they are outdated and not that important to be remembered. It will be much harder to make an informed decision, if you’re trying to navigate the world and your brain keeps bringing up multiple conflicting memories.

Secondly, forgetting will help us to make better decision, by allowing the old events to be generalized to new ones. This principle, in the artificial intelligence is called regularization. The regularization works by creating computer model and when analyzing huge data sets, eliminates specific details and prioritize core information, allowing for wider application.

We have always idealized people who have great memory, but the point of memory it’s not being able to remember who won Wimbledon in 1980. The real point is to make an intelligent person who can make smart decisions given the conditions, and forgetting some information is important aspect in helping you to do that.

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