Have you ever find it such an annoyance whenever you forget things at the most crucial times?
For example, realizing that you've left your wallet in the car as you're about to pay for the scrumptious meal you had with your date at the finest fine-dining restaurant in a 5-star hotel and it happened to be that she is going through PMS too. To make matters worst, your car is parked about 5-6 minutes away. Like, right at that moment, you felt your heart stopped beating. You tried to act as if everything is cool even though deep inside you're panicking. Your mind starts to play all the possible frightening scenes of how your date will react to your forgetfulness...(Mampuslah.....Die lah...Hong Kan liao....)
Or.......you forget that today is your Gf's birthday?
Yup, that feeling sure sucks, and I've "Been there done that."
That is why in this article, I've done some digging on a few websites that talk about neuroscience to understand more about one of the ultimate weaknesses humans have ever been afflicted with: Forgetfulness.
Memory Makes Us..Us!
To know why we forget things is to first understand how our brain receives information, stores, and retrieves it.
When someone can achieve what is mentioned above consistently, we say that they have a good memory.
Memory makes us who we are, isn't it? Without it, we have no identity, no place to belong, and no future to look forward to.
Talking about having a good memory, let's test our memory recalling capabilities, shall we?
Do your best to memorize this paragraph: "Satu kosong, satu telur kari ikan. Satu kosong dua telur, kari ayam. Mee goreng less spicy, satu. Mutton Chop, satu. Naan set with keema, satu Teh Tarik, dua, Teh O, satu, Teh Halia kurang less sweet, satu . 1 Teh Cino Ice". At the end of this article, you can test yourself how much can you remember from this paragraph! hehehe...
The Brain Is So COOL!
It gets interesting when I learned that the brain actually uses different processes to collect, store, and retrieve information - the brain is literally one huge portable hard disk with a mind of its own. Like, it could store, organize, delete information at its own will. (whoa lao!)
Our brain is consistently managing multiple tasks without us realizing as we go about doing our routine activity, like:
Because, our brain utilizes different levels of memory storage. The things which are at lower levels of attention and priority get forgotten. In the end, the human brain only stores the things which we need to survive.
Amazing, isn't it?
It's like saying I don't have to remember my girlfriend's birthday because it doesn't appear as a potential hazard to my life. Although, I kind of doubt that. (lol)
How The Brain Learns, Remembers, And Forgets
The brain goes through 3 stages of obtaining and storing new information: Sensory memory, Working/Short-term memory, and Long-term memory.
In this stage, it is like the "Touch N Go" kind of situation where the memories we obtained through our 5 senses are very likely to be forgotten within 1-2 seconds unless we made an effort to put it through the next stage, which is called the working or short-term memory.
In the sensory memory stage, our brain recalls previous memories of objects similar to it. We can recall an object and name it. This process of recalling enables the brain to identify the object and name it. If the object is something unique, it is stored or passed on to the relatively longer storage memory type a.k.a short term or long term memory.
Any information that we deliberately rehearse a few times in our mind will eventually get shuffled into the Short-term memory, as most of us called it - STM.
STM stores memory in a brief period - usually no longer than 30 seconds.
It is like trying to remember the name of that new friend you met during the freshman orientation camp or the name of that Italian dish that you just had an hour ago, yet you still forget what it's called by the time you reached home.
Yeah, I always forget people's names when I assumed they will not appear again in my life.
The brain is impressive, but as awesome as it is, it could only process 4-7 bits of specific information at a time. Anything more than that, it will not be able to process quick enough.
After some time, the memories from the STM section either decays or forms into the long-term memory, also known as LTM.
LTM is like a ridiculously enormous storage space where it holds all of our knowledge, skills, experiences, and memories.
When the brain starts to form Long-term memories, the memories will be formed either explicitly or implicitly.
Explicit memory happens when we store bits of information consciously and actively, like remembering the sentence that I've challenged you to memorize.
Implicit memory happens when our brain stores memories in the LTM without the need for any deliberate effort. For example, we don't have to repeatedly remind ourselves not to touch a hot oven.
Not all long-term memories will stay in the storage forever, though. Information stored in long-term memory would either stay in the brain for a short while (a day, a week) or last as long as a lifetime.
Any long-term memories that we do not try to remember after some time will eventually go through the forgetting process either through the Decay theory or Interference theory.
Now We Will Finally Know Why We Forget Stuff
Forgetting can be due to inattention or can happen because the brain does not reinforce a memory long enough to store it. Research suggests two main theories as to why memories are forgotten:
Psychologist Daniel Schacter stated that there are 7 causes of forgetfulness or as he called it: The Seven Sins of Memory.
Do You Remember The Paragraph?
Now, try to remember the exact words from the paragraph I told you to memorize. If you can get more than 80%, well...your memory strength is as good as a Mamak(Indian) Foodstall waiter! Power kedemak!
Zaid Omar is the founder and writer of this blog.. He is someone who values being the best version of himself with regards to his Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, and Spiritual aspects.