The Art of Forgetting

Morgan Buszczak

Why I chose this topic:

I am interested in forgetting because it is something humans do all the time. While our memories are superior to say, a dog, they aren't perfect. I myself have oftentimes walked into a room and proceeded to completely forget my reason for being there. I think human memory is fascinating, and learning some tips on how to avoid forgetfulness would certainly be useful. It could also help people with memory problems and diseases, such as Alzheimers.

Forgetting: Why and How

There are two main reasons why we forget things: the information in your brain is inaccessible at the time you are trying to remember it, or the brain simply forgets the information, making it unavailable.

How we forget depends on where we store the memory in our brain. If stored in the short term memory, memories can decay, be replaced with a new memory (displacement), or have interference (retroactive and proactive). Long term memory, though limitless in capacity, can also decay or have interference.
The Upside of Forgetting
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The Brain

Short term memory is in the pre-frontal lobe of the brain. Information is transferred from short-term memory to long-term memory through the hippocampus. Information is then decoded in sensory areas of the cortex. Many scientists think we forget things because our brains get rid of unimportant information, so they can remain efficient. Another theory states that, with age, our hippocampus decays, and interference happens more frequently (where instead of being able to learn new things, our brains bring up old memories instead).
Why Do We Forget Things?

Hermann Ebbinghaus

In 1885 he did an experiment on himself where he studied how long he could remember a group of random words. He then graphed his results, and developed a formula on how long we retain information in our memories.

The Curve of Forgetting

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Hedwig von Restorff

In 1933, Von Restorff discovered that we remember things that stand out. She conducted a set of memory experiments where people studied a list of relatively similar items and one random item, and then tried to recall all the items. People remembered the random item the most distinctly.

Tips: Create a Memory Palace

In order to remember things, you can create a memory palace, where you associated absurd images with chosen information. For example, in order to remember to pick up lemonade from the grocery store, imagine a weak carton of lemonade struggling to pick up a 1-pound dumbbell.
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