Forgetting Can Make You Smarter

22nd Jun 2017

Researchers say the goal of memory is not to transmit the most accurate information over time, but to optimize intelligent decision making by holding on to valuable information.

Paul Frankland and Blake Richards from University of Toronto have recently published a review paper suggesting our brains actively work to forget irrelevant information. By looking at literature on memory and forgetting, they have found plenty of evidence for distinct mechanisms of memory loss. Forgetting seems to be just as important as remembering – letting go of unnecessary details and outdated information makes us more effective at predicting new experiences and making memory-based decisions, researchers suggest.

Richards used principles of artificial intelligence learning to frame an argument that the interaction between remembering and forgetting helps us make more intelligent decisions. Forgetting outdated and potentially misleading information allows us to adapt and make decisions based on more recent and relevant information. Furthermore, we generalize our memories – by losing insignificant details, we retain a memory with only the details that are a priority.


Original research: “The Persistence and Transience of Memory” by Blake A. Richards and Paul W. Frankland in Neuron. June 2017

Full paper can be read here


< Back to Media