Researchers have found that remembering trivial details is not the point of memory at all. Your brain is helping you to remember only the information needed for decision making in the real world.
You may forget an item or two when you go to pick up groceries, or perhaps even an appointment that was booked a week ago. Did you forget your password because you don't remember the last time you tried logging in? Well, forgetfulness might seem inconvenient at times, but it just means you're smarter, according to a new study.
You may have tried memory exercises and tricks to improve your memory, and perhaps never hear the end of jokes from your friends due to your forgetfulness. If you're worried that it could be a sign of a bigger problem, take a breather. Because for all you know, you're a lot more intelligent than those around. It could be an indication that your brain is trying to clear out the irrelevant information to use your memory for something more important. Now isn't that something a smart person would do?
"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 Blake Richards, an associate fellow in the Learning in Machines and Brains program, according to CNN.
Think of your brain as something with limited storage space. You would want to clear out the things you don't use as often, as opposed to the ones that are more frequently used in your everyday life. "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 an informed decision," says Richards.
The researchers studied years of data on memory and memory loss and found that as new brains cells form in the hippocampus (the part of your brain associated with learning new things) older memories are overwritten and become more difficult to access. So though it may not seem like it, forgetting is how your brain makes you smarter. By making space for new information that will help you make real-life decisions, your brain is helping you adapt to newer situations.
The continuous swapping of old memories with new can actually lead to evolutionary benefits, the researchers say. "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, nothing is wrong with you if you forget directions to places you have been to only once or twice. Our brain is doing the best so that you focus on the more important parts of your life like health or finances. With technology in the mix now, we are freed up even more from memorizing tedious details like phone numbers which can be just saved up in your device. It leaves your brain even more space to treasure the most important memories like your wedding day, the birth of your first child or the various milestones you hit in life that was important to you.
The researcher further adds that if you’re forgetting more than the normal amount, it could be a red flag, in which case, it's best to consult the concerned health professional. But if you're the forgetful kind, don’t be hard on yourself over forgetting small things like where you kept the keys or your wallet. And the next time someone tries to guilt you about forgetting their birthday you know what to do.