Around 10 years ago, Malcolm MacLeod got interested in forgetting.
For most people, the tendency to forget is something we spend our time cursing. Where are my keys? What am I looking for in the refrigerator again? What is that woman’s name?
But MacLeod, who works as a memory researcher at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, took a radically different view of forgetting. He wanted to know if it might be possible for people to do it better, to improve their ability to forget, specifically, their ability to intentionally forget their own personal memories.
That time in fourth grade when you walked down the hall with your skirt tucked into the back of your underwear, if you sat down and practiced forgetting, could you erase it?
Certainly there were people who competed in memory competitions who practiced techniques for remembering and were wildly successful. At the 2012 USA Memory Championship in March, the returning champion, Nelson Dellis, had memorized 303 random numbers, 162 unknown names and faces, and 24 lines of poetry in a matter of hours. If you did those kind of techniques, only in a strange reverse, could you expand a person’s ability to forget in the same way that memory competitors expanded their ability to remember?
Read the whole story: NPR