Right guys, listen up – this is really important.
Hang on, what was I going to say again…?
Oh yeah! People who are forgetful might actually be smarter than people who can remember loads of stuff. In fact, being a bit loose with your recollections of stuff could be a sign of higher intelligence.
This incredible news comes from a study conducted at the University of Toronto where they concluded that having a memory that is somewhat lacking is not – as you might previously have thought – a bad thing.
They found that being able to remember loads of stuff might actually be massively overrated. This is great news for those of us who think themselves to be pretty smart, but sometimes leave their phone in the fridge or struggle to recall the specific of their latest Brexit deal.
Now where did I put those keys? Credit: PA
I’ll let Professor Blake Richards, one of the publishers of the study, explain. He said: “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.”
What they mean by that is, the brain is fine-tuned to prioritise important information and forget less useful stuff.
Let’s run that back through the original thought experiment.
Say you’re going into the fridge to get the cheese to make a butty. In doing so, you leave your phone – which might have been in your hand – on the top shelf of the fridge.
Cheese butty = important, mobile phone = irrelevant. The brain makes room for the things that actually matter.
Your phone’s in there somewhere… Credit: PA
Anyway, that’s a pretty ham (and cheese) fisted explanation, but the science guys have done the real thinking here.
The point is, our brain might forget transient details of an experience, but it recalls the larger picture perfectly.
It’s worth remembering (pun completely intended) that if you’re forgetting important things on the regular, there’s possibly something wrong.
However, forgetting the occasional thing is a function of a healthy brain. Professor Richards continued: “One of the things that distinguishes an environment where you’re going to want to remember stuff versus an environment where you want to forget stuff is this question of how consistent the environment is and how likely things are to come back into your life.”
There you have it. The best way to remember things properly is to not remember absolutely everything. Decision making is better when you’re not constantly remembering trivial details.
Take that University Challenge.