You know those people who always praise because they remember everything? Perhaps they shouldn’t do this it anymore, since the perfect memory is completely overestimated if it is believed in the new study in the scientific journal Neuron that concludes that forgetting is not only normal, it makes us even smarter!

A new study shows how forgetfulness may be causing the brain’s security mechanism to be overwhelmed by information. In other words, it’s about healthy brain function.

This could come as a relief if you always forget where you left the keys, but it could also help us understand how exactly the brain works.

Deleting redundant and obsolete information

Two scientists from the University of Toronto claim that the aim of our memory is not to convey the most accurate but most useful information that would help us make smart decisions.

“It’s important for the brain to forget irrelevant details and focus instead on things that will help make decisions in the real world,” explains Blake Richards , one of the scientists.

Richards and his colleague, Paul Frankland, checked earlier published works that had access to the notion of memory in various ways. Some have studied the neurobiological aspect of recall, others studied the neurobiology of forgetting.

The constant replacement of old memories with new ones also has evolutionary benefits. Namely, our brain helps us to quickly forget the irrelevant details of events from the past, but the main things remain in our memory, which enables us to generalize such experiences and better use them in making future decisions.

“We found a lot of evidence that there are mechanisms that encourage forgetting and that they differ from those responsible for storing information,” Farkland said.

The research has come up with evidence of deliberate weakening of synaptic networks between neurons involved in memory generation, as well as that new neurons ‘write’ over existing memories and hinder access.

The meaning of memory

Why is the brain trying to make us forget it? Richards and Frankland offer two explanations. First, forgetting makes it easier to adapt to new situations by deleting things from our memory that are no longer needed.

Second, forgetting allows us to generalize past events in order to make decisions about the new ones more easily, which is a concept that is known as regularization in artificial intelligence.

“If you are trying to move around the world and your brain keeps many conflicting memories, you will be more likely to make a good decision,” Richards said. Scientists also think that the amount of forgetfulness depends on the environment, because faster changes in situations require faster forgetting.

There is no doubt that forgetting information that we should regularly remember is frustrating, as well as that it may be a sign of more serious problems, but new research suggests that some degree of forgetfulness could in fact be an innate mechanism aimed at making us smarter.

“We always admire people who are always winning on quizzes, but the meaning of memory is not to remember who won the championship in 1972,” explains Richards. “The meaning of the memory is to make you an intelligent person who can make decisions according to circumstances, and an important aspect of this is to be able to forget some information.”

He also added that in today’s time of computers, smart phones and the availability of most information on the Internet, memorizing everything is totally absurd.

So next time someone tries to impress you with their perfect memory for details, show them this text and note that a smart thing to do is ignore such details!