The Science Behind How We Forget

Scientists have studied the process of forgetting in depth and identified several factors that contribute to why we forget information:

  1. The forgetting curve. Our memory fades rapidly with time. We tend to forget around 50% of what we learn within a day or two.
  2. Interference. New information can interfere with and displace old memories, making them harder to recall.
  3. Failure to retrieve. If we don't actively try to recall information from memory, we become less able to do so over time.
  4. Lack of context. Memories are often tied to the context in which we learned them. Without that context, recall becomes more difficult.
  5. Decay theory. Some researchers believe that memories literally decay or break down in the brain over time.

However, forgetting is not all bad. It helps the brain:

To combat forgetting, you can:

With the right techniques, you can minimize forgetting and optimize your long-term memory.