Discover Why and How Your Brain Forgets

If a word slips your mind while discussing with someone, you forget the name of an acquaintance or that an important event that you wanted to attend already happened several days ago, you do not have to worry because everyone experiences these moments. You probably expected to feel this mild frustration when reaching a certain age, probably over 50 years old but the truth is that memory functions the same for everyone. However, do you actually know why and how your brain forgets information? Well, researchers thought about the same thing, which drove them to investigate the case and discover accurate explanatory answers.

Inability of retrieval

Do you remember those moments when you simply cannot pronounce a word because as much as you dig, your brain those not seem to find it right at that moment? Undoubtedly, the word is there and you know it, but you simply cannot find a way to express it. Practically, you are not able to retrieve a specific memory and this represents one of the main causes that lead to forgetting. The explanation found by the researchers is called decay theory. Every time you create a memory, your brain stores it. Nevertheless, with the passage of time, memories fade and ultimately disappear if you do not remember them occasionally. This is quite normal, especially if you think about it like an item that you own. If you do not provide regular maintenance, it will deteriorate over the years. Surprisingly, some memories still linger on even though in long-term memory even if they have not been remembered.

Competition and interference

Another theory suggests that memories are constantly in a competition and they interfere with each other. If you acquire information that resembles another piece of information already existent in your brain, then interference occurs. This interference theory has two explanations. In the first case, an old memory hinders your ability to recall a new memory while in the second case new acquired information impedes you to remember information previously stored in your memory. Sometimes, you cannot even state that you forget a memory because it did not succeed to enter the long-term memory in the first place. The reason behind this “storage failure” is that your brain keeps only necessary main details that will help to distinguish similar elements in the future.

Motivated forgetting

Other times, people forget intentionally. More exactly, it represents a mechanism that prevents people from experiencing over and over again unpleasant or traumatic memories that happened at some point in their past. They willingly block the memories to prevent them from interfering with normal functioning and avoid the associated stress that could lead to health consequences. However, you have to make a clear distinction between two forms of motivated forgetting: repression and suppression. Whether it is an idea or an incident, if you consciously forget it, then you can consider it suppression because you practically eliminate the information from your awareness. On the other hand, if you unconsciously forget it, then it is definitely repression.

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