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Can Your Brain Really Be "Full"? - Scientific American


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In daily life, forgetting actually has clear advantages.

Imagine, for instance, that you lost your bank card. The new card you receive will come with a new personal identification number (PIN). Research in this field suggests that each time you remember the new PIN, you gradually forget the old one. This process improves access to relevant information, without old memories interfering.

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When we acquire new information, the brain automatically tries to incorporate it within existing information by forming associations. And when we retrieve information, both the desired and associated but irrelevant information is recalled.

The majority of previous research has focused on how we learn and remember new information. But current studies are beginning to place greater emphasis on the conditions under which we forget, as its importance begins to be more appreciated.

Remembering and forgetting are two sides of the same coin. 

In a sense, forgetting is our brain’s way of sorting memories, so the most relevant memories are ready for retrieval. Normal forgetting may even be a safety mechanism to ensure our brain doesn’t become too full.

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