Forgetting Things Is Actually A Sign Of Very High Intelligence, According To Science

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If you have to go back three times to make sure you turned the oven off, can’t ever remember where you put down your keys, and still manage to miss the coffee date you set up with your coworker because you forgot about it, then rest assured you’re likely very smart.

As it turns out by new research by the University of Toronto, being forgetful could actually be a sign of greater intelligence. Forgetting doesn’t mean that you don’t care, can’t keep your head on straight, or are losing it, it could just mean that you’re smart than you think! Here’s what the study found.

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Sorting Out The Important Stuff

The study’s findings suggest that your memory is working in your favor even when it seems like it’s working against you. Basically what it’s doing when it forgets things is that it’s optimizing your decision-making.

man-looking-up-smiling-resting her face on her hand by forest
Katii Bishop / Pexels
Katii Bishop / Pexels

The brain only remembers valuable information so it lets go of any details that it deems unimportant to make room for what actually matters. While yes remembering where your keys are does matter, in the grand scheme of things it’s not a memory that is going to shape you or push you forward.

Focusing On What Actually Matters

Think of how much stimuli you are exposed to on a daily basis. If you tried to remember all of it, you would constantly feel overwhelmed and burned out.

person-holding-magnifying-glass over building
Maurício Mascaro / Pexels
Maurício Mascaro / Pexels

Instead, the brain forgets smaller details so that it can stay focused on the bigger picture. It still remembers that a past event happened without all the intricate details that take up space and are kind of irrelevant. This helps you generalize experiences which improves your decision-making abilities.

Professor Blake Richards, one of the publishers of the study, explained: “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.”

Situation Dependent

This memory lapse comes especially handy in situations where you are exposed to an overload of information. That means that memory depends on situations and environments. For example, if you work as a Starbucks barista, it’s more important to remember how to make the drinks than it is to remember all the different customers you see.

Cashiers working behind counter at coffee shop
Afta Putta Gunawan / Pexels
Afta Putta Gunawan / Pexels

The best thing for your brain to do when storing these memories is not to memorize everything. Otherwise, the bombardment of useless information would make it impossible for your brain to make a decision.

Preventing Sensory Overload

So the trick to having a good memory is to let go of the extra details that take up space and prevent you from absorbing more. Your brain is always working to protect you. According to Richards, the best technique for storing memories is to not memorize absolutely everything. Make room for what actually matters.

lack-and-white-photos-of-toddlers
Rodolfo Clix / Pexels
Rodolfo Clix / Pexels

“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,” he explains.

Sign Of A Healthy Memory

So the conclusion is forgetting details s a sign of a healthy memory that works how it’s supposed to, to optimize your intelligence, decision making, and memories.

person-holding-string-lights-photo-
David Cassolato / Pexels
David Cassolato / Pexels

On a scientific level, memories are stored in the hippocampus of the brain. It erases less important information or “bad memories” so that the brain can focus on important things, in other words, “good memories”. This way it prevents us from wasting energy on trivial information to make wiser and better decisions.

Now the next time someone gives you a hard time forgetting something, you have something to brag about!

Within Limits

Just like with everything in life, too much of anything is never a good thing. The study does also warn that forgetting important things quickly and often is also alarming and may be a reason for concern.

floating brain on purple background
Milad Fakurian / Unsplash
Milad Fakurian / Unsplash

There are going to be environments where you need to remember things with conscious effort. Luckily, you can actively retain or “memorize” through repetition and brain exercises. You are always in control and more powerful than you think. Tap into your own brain and see how much you can accomplish.

Expand Your Mind

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Zulmaury Saavedra / Unspalsh
Zulmaury Saavedra / Unspalsh

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Aria Misty

Aria Misty is a recent university grad. She did her undergrad in media, information & technoculture with a Master in Journalism & Communications in 2018.

Aria has a particular interest in all things astrology and spirituality. This is driven by her desire to create healing. In fact, Aria went back to school for A master’s in counseling p[…]