Why is it forgotten and not forgotten

Forget: Why it's good for us sometimes

Forgetting something is often embarrassing, but it also has great advantages. Because with a holey memory we can make much better decisions than with a super memory, say scientists. Read it yourself!

A perfect memory - you'd imagine that to be pretty cool. For example, you never need to be afraid of class work again. You just ask your memory - and that rattles you down everything your teacher has ever said on the subject. All you have to do is write it down, done.

However, researchers do not find such a super storage system super at all. They say: It makes perfect sense if our memories are full of holes like Swiss cheese. This way we get through life much better than if we keep everything in our head!

By forgetting, we sort out the important from the unimportant

The reason: We simply take in too much information with our senses. Noises, smells and images are constantly beating down on us. And that from morning to night. If our brain remembered everything - it would look like a junk room in it: completely confusing. Everything important would be buried deep under the incidental.

This can have dire consequences: Just imagine you are walking across the street and a car is racing towards you. You think about what to do - and your brain tells you: “This is an Audi A4. Hey, you saw one of those on Sunday too! The sun was shining and the paint glistened silver. By the way, it smelled like sausages… ”In this situation you only need one piece of information:“ Danger! Run away!"

Our brain is not responsible for storing as many things as possible, says the Canadian brain researcher Blake Richards. It should remember things that we can use to make good decisions. And that only works if it constantly forgets the unimportant. It works in several steps.

Step by step: This is how our brain sorts all information

Step 1: In the first two seconds after receiving information, the brain erases all memories that were only important for a moment. Which foot you just stepped on, for example. You only have to know that in order to set the next foot correctly. After that no more.

Likewise, almost all background noises or images are thrown out: barking dogs, conversations that do not concern us. Other people's clothes. All these memories dissolve like bursting soap bubbles: Pop! Pop! Pop! Knowledge that we need to have to hand for a little longer wanders into short-term memory. Think of a cell phone number someone will give you so you can write it down. Read once aloud: 9-3-0-1-5-3-4. Then close your eyes and repeat it. Works without problems, right? Not for long though ...

Step 2: The short-term memory is also cleared out. Only the most important things are written to long-term memory. What is important? A jury made up of several parts of the brain, such as the hippocampus, will judge this. Experiences that are associated with strong feelings have good chances: fear, anger, shame, but also fun. Because such feelings indicate important situations. For example dangers from which one must protect oneself in the future.

Information on topics that you already know a lot about also gets stuck in the brain. It is easy for dinosaur fans to remember a new animal name - Triceratops, for example. In the case of Dinomuffeln, it slips out of memory like a wet fish. The rest? Will be deleted. Can you still remember the cell phone number from just now? Probably not. Your brain didn't find it particularly exciting.

Memories that have made it into long-term memory can be stored there for days or years. Sometimes for a lifetime. However, researchers have discovered that our thinking apparatus can also alter important memories.

Step 3: This process usually starts when information contradicts each other: if you leave a new bus stop every day, your brain soon forgets the old one. This will prevent you from getting confused in the future - and ensure that you can adjust to changes in your life. For that you are happy to accept a few memory failures.