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Together, these studies demonstrate that forgetting can have very diverse kinds of benefits across a wide range of domains.The next time forgetting inconveniences us, we should stop and consider its virtues.Many of the relentless details of our daily lives are best forgotten.
It doesn’t help to remember an old password we no longer use or a pin code we’ve replaced or a friend’s unintentional insult.
When we’re in a new relationship, we’re better off not remembering the intimacies of a former relationship.
Multiple cues may be present in the environment at any given time, even if they do not have a meaningful relationship.
Thus, successful learning involves both learning true relationships and forgetting random relationships that do not have predictive value.
Having a good memory is typically viewed as being highly desirable.
Indeed, people often actively work to improve their memory.But the same process that leads to this brief inconvenience also leads to the forgetting of irrelevant thoughts – a process we need.We emphasize the noteworthy instances when forgetting betrayed us, but let us also consider the many times when we happily forgot, when it was beneficial for us not to remember. 1) Practically speaking, it doesn’t help to remember where we parked yesterday.However, participants who experienced greater thinking-induced forgetting (e.g., a greater memory deficit on thinking vs.baseline trials) generated new uses that were rated more creative than the uses suggested by participants who experienced less thinking-induced forgetting.Forgetting has also been shown to be beneficial in a very different domain: creative thinking. On baseline trials, participants were simply instructed to study the uses.On thinking trials, participants studied the list and then had one minute to generate new uses for the object.2) Forgetting makes experiential learning possible. Such learning proceeds when specific memories of similar events coalesce into general knowledge.If we repeatedly go out to French restaurants, for example, we will acquire a fuller understanding of French cuisine – even as we forget many of the individual meals.Forgetting allows us to manage our complicated lives – encouraging us to remember what’s important, inspiring us to experience the present more fully, and restoring us after painful events in our lives.Some may object and say that forgetting is undesirable and often unsettling, but the benefits of forgetting are considerable – and necessary.