We’ve all had those moments when you’re going about your day, and then all of a sudden, you totally lose your train of thought and forget what you are supposed to be doing. Ugh, doesn’t it feel like the worst?
But apparently, it’s not a bad thing at all because it turns out that those moments of forgetfulness are actually a sign that your brain is functioning properly.
According to a new study published in the journal Neuron, when you can only recall certain details, it may actually be a sign that your brain is better at separating what information is useful to you in the future.
The research, completed at the University of Toronto, reviewed previous studies to find that the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus (the part of your brain responsible for memory) seems to promote forgetting of certain memories, as a way to make room for more important information.
“We always idealize the person who can smash a trivia game, but the point of memory is not being able to remember who won the Stanley Cup in 1972,” lead author, Professor Blake Richards, said in a statement. “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.”
So, if the whole point of remembering details is it help us make better decisions, it makes sense for our brain to filter what knowledge is needed to make more informed, logical choices. “If you’re trying to navigate the world and your brain is constantly bringing up multiple conflicting memories, that makes it harder for you to make an informed decision,” Richards explained.
Researchers backed up a previous study from 2007 that found that forgetfulness is a “highly evolved form of intelligence” and that people who could better remember conflicting messages, instead of repeating easy details, also had higher intelligence.
“The point of memory is to make you an intelligent person who can make decisions given the circumstances, and an important aspect in helping you do that is being able to forget some information,” Richards said the statement.
So, next time you momentarily forget your kid’s birthday, your email password, or where you left your car keys, don’t fret because your brain is probably just saving space for a more important memory that’ll help inform your decisions in the long run.
[h/t Scary Mommy]