If someone comes up to you and says you're a fool to forget things, then show them this study that says otherwise
Do you think you often forget the simplest of things, like where you left your keys? Obviously, you're not alone, and thankfully, it also means you're not dumb. According to a study published by the journal Neuron, people who are forgetful show a sign of superior intelligence because their brain is focused on more important things. It means you forget where your keys are at because your mind is occupied by things that are more important. Well, now you can use science as an excuse for being absent-minded. Did you forget someone's birthday? That's because you've got bigger things on your mind, and you aren't to be blamed.
Assistant Professor Blake Richards, who co-wrote the study, said, "The real goal of memory is to optimize decision-making. 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. We know that exercise increases the number of neurons in the hippocampus, but they’re exactly those details from your life that don’t actually matter, and that may be keeping you from making good decisions."
Previously, neurobiological research focused on how cellular mechanisms store information, known as persistence, but less attention has been focused on those involved in forgetting things, also known as transience. It was assumed the inability to remember things is because of a failure in the mechanisms involved in storing or recalling information. Energy is spent by the brain, both in storing and forgetting information. The older information stored in our brain becomes less useful as the world develops around us.
Professor Richards said, "If you’re trying to navigate the world and your brain is constantly bringing up multiple conflicting memories, that makes it harder for you to make an informed decision." He also said, "We always idealize the person who can smash a trivia game, but the point of memory is not being able to remember who won the Stanley Cup in 1972. The point of memory is to make you an intelligent person who can make decisions given the circumstances, and an important aspect in helping you do that is being able to forget some information."
Ronald Davis, of Scripps Research Institute Florida, and Yi Zhong, of Tsinghua University in Beijing, claim the brain’s remarkable storage ability suggests that it contains a very efficient information management system that is equipped with data disposal methods. “Because of the extraordinarily large number of memory engrams that can accumulate in the brain across time, it seems logical that the brain must have … mechanisms to remove memories that become unused,” they wrote in 2017 in Neuron.
The possibility of active forgetting has been considered by psychologists for nearly half a century, but it is only in the last 15 years or so that researchers have accumulated substantial neurobiological evidence on the issue. While the neuroscientific study of forgetting is still only developing, scientists have begun to unearth some of the brain’s tactics used for information erasure.
It seems many forms of forgetting things is like a program that wipes data from your hard drive. When you recall parts of your memory, there are chances that you forget other parts of it. Also, “forgetting cells” may actually be signaling the brain to sweep memory traces away. “We posit that the brain also has the inherent biological capacity to erode memory traces using signaling systems” which is similar to those used in acquiring memories and storing them.
“I would speculate that forgetting might be the default system of the brain. We might have a slow chronic forgetting signal in our brains that basically says let’s erase everything unless a judge … comes to intervene and says this memory is worth saving,” said Davis. Well, all said and done, you can finally be proud of how you're an intelligent person if you can't get your facts straight or remember all the tiny details of your life. You're a smart cookie, that's why.