I forgot to schedule a haircut last week. I regularly forget my usernames and passwords. I’ve forgotten anniversaries, birthdays and promises.
If these confessions sound familiar, it’s because we forget all the time. And when wenotice we’ve forgotten, it usually means the thing we forgot was important. Forgetting in these cases is a failing and we naturally wish our memories were more complete. It’s no wonder, then, that forgetting has a bad rap.
But we also constantly forget in ways we don’t notice — and a lot of this forgetting isn’t bad. In fact, it could be crucial to making our memories work as well as they do. That’s right: Forgetting can be a good thing.
I don’t mean that forgetting can have positive emotional consequences, though there’s some evidence for that as well. For instance, most people’s memory for autobiographical events is biased towards the positive and positive memories likely contribute to positive emotions and wellbeing. It might be good to forget some of the bad.
No, what I have in mind is more radical still: That forgetting could help us learn from experience and apply what we’ve learned in real life. To quote William James: “In the practical use of our intellect, forgetting is as important a function as recollecting.”
How could this be?
Read the whole story: NPRMore of our Members in the Media >