We are constantly being inundated with information. We are out in the world, we are meeting people, we are working, and reading, and sending texts, our phones are chirping, our podcasts are playing. So it's not a surprise that we can't remember everything. But a new study published in the journal Neuron puts forth a theory that says not remembering everything is actually good for us, and might even be better for us.
In a statement released by the researchers they write, "It's important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that's going to help make decisions in the real world." Point being, your brain is actively dumping information so that you are better able to process new information and go about your life.
The brain does this by getting rid of outdated information — which might be why you can't remember where the office xerox machine used to be, otherwise you might be going there (instead of to the new location) all the time. As researcher Blake Richards writes, "If you're trying to navigate the world and your brain is constantly bringing up multiple conflicting memories, that makes it harder for you to make an informed decision."
The second way the brain forgets things is by allowing us to generalize, this is likely an evolutionary development that enables us to use swaths of information to make decisions rather than merely replicating past experiences in our minds. Basically, you remember what you need to remember in order to make informed, safe decisions moving forward.
So the next time you find yourself forgetting something — like where you met someone, or what your old desk looked like — take a moment and think about whether it was really that important anyway. Maybe your brain got rid of it on purpose.