In my ‘Building Memories Using Games’ post, I talk about how emotional or traumatic events can leave our memories susceptible to change. In researching that concept, I found a super interesting article that I thought deserved its own little mini post. It was “More Is Less: Increased Processing of Unwanted Memories Facilitates Forgetting” by Wang, Placek & Lewis-Peacock (2019)
The part I picked up on in this research is that its harder to forget something than it is to remember something. That seems counterintuitive, right? How can it be harder to forget? I forget things ALL THE TIME. Literally, I have left my phone almost everywhere on this green earth. I have forgotten promises made, conversations had, appointments set, children (not my own) and pets. So how could these researchers find that it’s actually harder to forget than remember? The title caught my eye, so I read the article then did a few Googity searches to find more information.
Turns out it’s the things that we want to forget that we can’t. Things that evoke hurt, longing, regret, horror. The way your heart soared when that amazing boy kissed you, then broke when he said he couldn’t do it again. The sound of your friend’s voice cracking when they called to tell you the worst news. That meme that showed that girl doing that thing that you couldn’t figure out at first (can’t unsee that one…). Those words you wish you could take back. The accidents, the incidents, the moments when you realized your whole world had just changed. Go ahead. Try to forget those.
I could get into the details of the article, but you get it. They were right.
What can’t you forget?
Reference: Wang, T. H., Placek, K. & Lewis-Peacock, J. A. (2019). More Is Less: Increased Processing of Unwanted Memories Facilitates Forgetting. Journal of Neuroscience, 39(18), 3551-3560.