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Make Room For New Memories

Mature woman looking wistful and reminiscing

We all worry about a lot of things every day. The lingering question of whether we’ll have enough time in a day to properly take care of all we have to tends to dominate our thoughts the most. After all, there is only so much time in a day and we end up feeling like there is an endless list of things that need to be done. Despite all this, we tend to make it through each day even if we end up collapsing at the end of it. More ephemeral worries can get to us when we have time to think though. One of the ones that tend to haunt most of us is why we have issues with our memory. After all, we have them at all ages and they are symptoms of mental issues of varying sorts that leave us wondering. That wonder can easily become worried if we’re not careful though. A new piece of information on how memory works may be just the cure we’ve all be looking for for this particular worry.

Observation Engine
Before we go any farther, it is worth taking a quick look at how our minds function. The brain is constantly processing data. We sense countless little cues about the world around us constantly and only a handful of them actually stand out to us. That doesn’t mean we haven’t noticed the rest of them. Our brains are highly efficient observation engines that absorb and analyze information without us consciously being aware of it. The most common way of stating this is that we often reach a decision before we’re even aware that we’re trying to come to one. Most of our cognitive process is obscured from us due to this. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. It simply means that we’re not all as aware of how we think as we might otherwise be and that some of the brain’s logic errors can creep in without us noticing. This leads to occasional problems, yes, but all of this contributes to our effectiveness at dealing with the world around us. Our memory is integrally tied into the process.

Forgetting to Remember
All those little lapses in memory we experience every day aren’t a bad thing. They’re actually a sign that our brains are working as expected. The human mind is so effective at what it does because it knows to only hold on to certain bits of information. Imagine the following scenario. You enter a meeting room that has been painted yellow. It has comfortable rolling chairs. Your colleagues, one service animal, and an important guest are in the room. You are all there to listen to that guest give a speech. Your brain is going to notice all of this, but afterward you’re more likely to hold on to the contents of the speech than you are any other part of the event. That’s because your brain will decide the extra information is extraneous and put it in the “forget” pile. This helps to filter out the important from the unimportant and keeps all of us from losing track of everything amid countless irrelevant details.

Supportive Gaps
All those little details we jettison constantly never reach the surface of our mind and that’s important. Researchers believe this is crucial to us all being able to function. We’d be unable to focus if our minds we constantly aware of every little detail. Ticking clocks wouldn’t fade, every little sound would catch our attention, and every flicker of movement require our attention. That would make it harder to function. Some of those issues present themselves in neurodivergent individuals diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum or with ADHD where more things do get observed constantly and lead to sensory issues. Even neurodivergent minds still jettison most of the information being processed though. This makes it a reassuring thing to know that forgetting little details each day isn’t a sign of problems to come. It is simply a sign that your mind is in good working order. That’s something to keep in mind that next time someone makes a “the memory is the first thing to go” joke.

Interestingly enough, the constant stream of details that we forget every day is a sign of how our brain functions. Those gaps are a way for our hard-working unconscious mind to ensure that we devote our limited higher analysis functions to worthwhile information. It keeps us able to function and know what is important. So don’t worry if you don’t remember what color the meeting room walls were a week ago. It really isn’t that important a piece of information, after all.

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