Can you imagine if you remembered every detail of everything that ever happened to you?
Or every piece of information you've ever read? All of it stored in your brain and ready to be called upon at any given moment?
As someone who often walks into a room and forgets why I came in there, the very notion of this is overwhelming to me.
However, I have often wondered why it is I remember some things with such clarity, and other things I forget completely.
Sometimes friends will remind me of conversations we had years ago that they remember quite well, and I can only barely recall.
My forgetfulness could be a sign of genius -- maybe.
But it's more likely a tactic for survival.
Turns out, it's actually really important that we forget certain things, in order to make room for more pressing details that will help us out in the future.
According to researchers from The University of Toronto, the process of forgetting is actually essential to memory.
Blake Richards, an assistant professor at the The University of Toronto Scarborough and author of the study, explained,
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.
Study co-author Paul Frankland added that there are neurological “mechanisms that promote memory loss,” which are completely separate from the process of storing information.
The researchers found evidence of the brain actively weakening connections between neurons that help store memories, as well as signs of neurons working to erase existing memories.
Very Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, no?
The researchers believe the brain does this because, as life continues to move and change, a person must adapt accordingly.
Your brain, as cool and amazing as it is, has to make room to store new, more relevant information as it comes to you.
Like, yeah, those Hall and Oates song lyrics are great to know for karaoke night, but it's probably more pertinent that you brain make room for information like where the fire exit locations are in your new apartment building.
It's your brain's safety mechanism, if you will.
In order for you to be a functioning, intelligent person in society, according to Richards, forgetting certain pieces of information is simply necessary.
That way, you can subconsciously prioritize important information and make decisions based on a collection of “data" stored in your noggin.
Wait, so, what were we talking about again?