There are people who pride themselves on their excellent memories, which can certainly be useful in school or social situations. However, it is nearly impossible to remember every tiny detail of every situation, and it’s nearly as impossible to remember every fact that you learn in school, especially over a long period of time.
When you forget something, it often makes you feel a bit…well…stupid. You don’t feel particularly intelligent standing in the middle of the grocery store trying to remember everything you need to get, nor do you feel exceptionally bright when you go from one room to another and forget why you made the trip.
You might wonder why these minor brain lapses occur, but you don’t really need to worry. Researchers Paul Frankland and Blake Richards from the University of Toronto found that old memories in the brain are literally “overwritten” by new memories. It is basically harder for us to remember the old impressions – or forget them completely.
According to the study, a perfect memory isn’t connected to high intelligence in any way. In fact, the study found that the opposite tends to be true. While you might assume that someone with a great memory is generally considered intelligent, it is actually more useful and even healthier to remember a larger scale of everything and forget small details.
“It’s important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the things that will help you make decisions in the real world,” Richards explained in an interview with CNN.
The brain has a small mechanism called the hippocampus, and this component of the mind stores memories. It works to get rid of unimportant details so you can focus more on what really matters. This allows you to make intelligent decisions in a much more efficient way.
While this process occurs, the brain is actually overwriting old memories with new, more important ones. A brain that is crowded with too many memories is more likely to have conflict in its ability to make decisions. For instance, a brain with many memories might be indecisive because it accounts for too many variables.
“We know that sport increases the number of neurons in the hippocampus,” said Richards. “It’s these very details from your life that are not important, and maybe keep you from making good decisions.”
This makes sense from a biological standpoint since early humans would have had to remember vital details in order to survive, so the brain would grow to help that happen. However, with the advancements in technology in the recent years, humans are negating the need for detailed memory.
For people in the modern world, it is much more useful to understand how Google works than it is to remember how to do unusual tasks. This just means it is even more acceptable to occasionally forget small details since you can now easily look up just about any fact you need to know at any time.
If you find yourself forgetting major chunks of time or large segments of important information, there might be a serious issue, but otherwise it is perfectly normal to miss small details. You don’t have to feel stupid when you forget since it just means your mind is working as it should.