Science shows that good memory is not correlated with high intelligence. Also, the brain remembers some things and forgets others. This means that forgetfulness is a vital part of intelligence.


U of T news reported that Blake Richards and Paul Frankland’s paper has shown that the human brain is actively functioning to forget some things. These two researchers studied through the literature on remembering, also known as persistence, as well as the investigation on forgetting, known as transience. In their paper, which was published in Neuron, they wrote that forgetting is a significant part of our memory as remembering.

In other word, they established that not only does memory obtain the most authentic information over time, but it also optimizes and guides smart decisions by focusing on pertinent information.

Professor Blake Richards stated that the aim of our memory is to optimize decision-making abilities. In addition, he added that the human brain forgets insignificant information and fixates on the things that are necessary for making right decisions.

If you remember a social confrontation or a basis of a conversation instead of details, it indicates that your brain forgets details, but remembers things that are necessary for predicting the future and making decisions.


In the past, neurological studies on memory focused on the cellular mechanisms necessary for information storage, known as persistence, whereas the mechanisms related to forgetting, known as transience, were ignored.

Today, it is often thought that the inability to remember stems from an inadequacy in the mechanisms related to storing and recalling information.

According to Paul Frankland, new evidence suggests that some mechanisms enhance memory loss, but these mechanisms are different from those included in storing information. Namely, the human brain is functioning at forgetting that information. There are good reasons for that.

But what do underlying mechanisms represent?

Removal or weakening of the synaptic relation between the neurons in which memory is encoded is one of the mechanisms. The other mechanism, which is supported by Frankland’s paper, is the generation of new neurons within the hippocampus. When new neurons generate inside the hippocampus, the new relation changes the existing and rewrites new memory, making it hard to access. Science Daily reported that for this reason, children, whose hippocampus produces more new neurons, forget more information.

Why people forget?

The human brain spends a lot of energy in remembering information, but it also spends a lot of energy on forgetting information. Why? Richards thinks that there are two reasons why people might want to forget some of the information they encountered. Firstly, in today’s world, information becomes outdated and unimportant to remember.

Secondly, forgetting information helps people to make decisions by letting them to generalize past situations to new ones. This principle, which is also known as regularization in the artificial intelligence, works by producing basic computer models that emphasize meaningful information, but gets rid of specific details while analyzing large data sets, thus creating wide application.

According to Richards, the aim of memory is to make people intelligent, so that they can make better decisions in a given circumstance, and a significant role in helping them to make better decisions plays the ability to forget some information.