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Ways of Forgetting

I always imagine that our mind is an attic full of stuff, and the more crowded it is the less thing you dan put in the attic over time, and naturally, that explains why I keep on forgetting things. Have you ever imagined what would it be if you never really forgot things?

While it is easy to imagine that memory is something you can easily plug in and out, in reality, it is a little bit more complex than that. Memory is a relay of electric current that goes between cells in our brains in a certain way. For example, the smell of specific food will activate the part of the brain that processes smell that usually correlates with good taste. This way, even before you savor that delicious chocolate dessert you can feel your mouth waters. In a way, memory is not a physical thing in your brain. It is an action where there are a group of cells fires or activated, and different fired-up neurons will generate different memories.

Imagine a bunch of supporters is sitting in a stadium. If only one supporter is standing up, nothing meaningful happens. However, if everyone is coordinated in a certain wave, then the supporters can form a ‘wave’ and a lot of other coordinated movements. Our brain works similarly, in which our brain cells are being coordinated in such a coordinated way. Different patterns of fired cells will generate different memories. If you imagine this, with our limited brain cells we would be able to store a big amount of memories, right? So how do we forget things?

The three types of forgetting things

There are at least 3 different ways of forgetting, which are decay (with the cooler name of passive oblivescence that you will forget after reading this), displacement, and interference.

1. Decay or the slow fade of memory. There are a few opinions on how this happens. The first one is that the connection between the cells becomes less active because you don’t activate the connection enough over time. It is also might be caused by the fact we learn a lot of new things and correlate this old thing we learn into new memories.

2. Displacement or motivated forgetting happens when someone intentionally suppresses negative memory of the past. This is harder than how it looks as we need a lot of other encouragement to be able to do this. The researcher still doesn’t know why this motivated forgetting (or therapy, if you may) is possible, but our brain seems to be able to block some part of the brain that triggers the bad memories over time.

3. Interference or targeted. This happens every night when our brain declutters a small unimportant thing we see during the day. Our brain will prune connections between cells and erase some unneeded memories. Our brain knows that if it is important, we will re-learn it the day after. I believe this is the main cause of all the things I forgot every day. But this forgetting is necessary to keep us healthy, because imagine if we remember all the sight, sounds, face, smell, color, and every other possible piece of information in your life. It will be stressful, right?

How to forget less

Continuous exposure to things we have to remember will surely help us remember, this will help us fire the brain cell connection more often. The more often these connection fires, the faster this connection will fire. For me, I write down a list of things I have to do and therefore I get more ‘exposure’ to things I have to do. It is as written in our gift makers manual - write down everything important!

What about you, do you have any foolproof tips to forget things less?


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This list of questions was utilised to conduct our European Commission H2020 research project, TIPPING+, in understanding narrative-network dynamics in tipping processes towards low-carbon energy futu


I repeat words I don't want to forget, for example when learning some language. I heard it's useful to try to use 5 senses, see, hear, smell, taste and touch. I mean you can't taste vocabularies so at least you'd better read out loud to hear it from your ears after seeing new vocabularies! If it's not about language, for example ideas that suddenly come up in your mind, I tell someone about it, or I expand it's imagination and try to make it more specific. If you have something to write, probably that's the best way! Thanks for sharing a interesting topic!


I forget everything I have on my hand, so I always use a bag to carry!! I have a technique to memorize for example which is similar to what you wrote here.


Oktavianna Winda
Oktavianna Winda
Aug 06, 2021

The habit to mindfully eat healthy food can help too :D


Well done in explaining one of my favorite neuroscience topics! I think it's important to distinguish the types of memory that fit into this context of forgetting. What we're talking about here is called short-term memory, which happens actually less than a minute. Declarative long-term memory (facts, names, etc) is stored differently, but it still obeys similar patterns. Non-declarative AKA muscle memory, is a bit more magical and a different conversation. For STM I think it's about attention and not multitasking. You'd be surprised how many digits we can really memorize. For either STM or LTM, the key is rehearsal! I think for LTM my favorite techniques include making analogies/stories. Creating mindmaps in the brain makes information easier to remember because there…

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Also, it would be great if you want to just add a diagram of the Multi-store model in this blog just for a more complete picture 😄


Aug 05, 2021

Some of my friends said I'm very good at memorizing everything since I'm like their alarm. But, personally, I think I forgot a lot. I lost my things easily. But indeed, it meant that my brain considered them as not important things for me :p

I think I write a lot and try to release my stress. I hope I can forget less

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