Do you frequently forget where you put your keys? Do you remember people’s faces but have a hard time remembering their names? Do you often walk into a room and forget why? Rejoice! It might make you smarter and more efficient!
Most of us associate the ability to remember facts, names or details with intelligence. Remembering things can come in handy in school or in the workplace. However, researchers at the University of Toronto have discovered that forgetting things is actually an important skill. It may even make you smarter.
Optimal Decisions Need Space In Your Brain
According to University of Toronto Scarborough Assistant Professor Blake Richards, “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.”
Take a moment and try to recall the phone numbers of your friends and family members. You probably have some of them memorized, but most of them you probably have stored in your phone. Since your phone has stored those numbers for you, your brain has probably decided that you don’t need to have them memorized.
Memories are stored in the hippocampus. The hippocampus weeds out information that it feels it doesn’t need in order to make room for new information. Do you remember the phone number of your best friend in high school? You probably had that number memorized at one point, but you might not anymore. The brain can overwrite old memories to help retain new ones.
The Encouraging Evolution of Adaptation
Because of improvements in technology and changes in the way we access information, our brains have adapted and let go of certain information. It can be more useful to us to remember how to find a tutorial on YouTube for how to build a birdhouse than it is for us to remember how to do it.
The brain actually encourages forgetfulness with the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus. The forgetting of certain information helps with decision making. If your brain is full of useless information, weeding through it to produce a decision can be difficult, if not impossible. When the brain adapts like this, it is actually growing smarter --- and able to process information more quickly. You can make better and faster, solid decisions when you free up the working memory space.
So, the next time you forget where you put your keys or you can’t remember your new co-worker’s name, don’t worry... Your brain just made room for more important facts!