Maybe if I understood more about the forgetting process, it would help my MemoryTechnique.

What happens when a person forgets something ?

If there's something I want to get out of my mind (that television theme song going round and round in my head), are there good ways of getting rid of it without forgetting things I want to keep remembering ?

Or say I'm playing one of those memory "concentration" games. Once I've figured out where all the pairs are for one game, how do I keep those memories from interfering with the next game ? (Or alternatively, how do I tell which memories are the more recent memories ?)

Some people believe:

Other people believe:

(A thread on how forgetfulness kills 30 children a year;f=25;t=000875;p=0;f=25;t=000875;p=3 has examples of both kinds of people, and briefly mentions the 2 theories).

If I knew of some method or process I could use to guarantee that I would never forget something, of course I would use it for all my important things. So do the "can't forget" people know and use such a method ? If so, I wish they would tell me what it is. Or are the "can't forget" people simply mistaken ? Perhaps they forget things just as much as everyone else, but so far they've been fortunate enough that it hasn't been one of the few important things.

I've noticed that occasionally when a person will walks up and shakes my hand, I can't remember that name for what seems like a long time. I've learned to try to stall and talk about other things for a bit; often the name will come to me. Clearly that name *is* in my head somewhere, I just couldn't access it for a few minutes. What's going on there ? Should I try to recall stuff faster, or just be happy that I can remember it at all ? --DavidCary?

A helpful way to think of the forgetting process is that you will forget almost *any* information if you don't 'revise' it or recall it repeatedly in your mind.

If you are told some vitally important information, the natural response of the human mind is to repeately think of it. You will probably find it hard to get out of your mind as you get to sleep, for example. And repeatedly thinking about information is a big aid to memory.

Conversely, if you are repeatedly reminded of a totally unimportant thing, such as an advertising slogan, it is still remembered very well due to the repetition.

Because repeatedly thinking about information is such a natural response to important information, it's hard to separate out scientifically exactly how much of remembering important information is due to this spontaneous revision, and how much is due to it being important per se. However, there's good evidence that this 'automatic revision' is a big part of how we remember important things.

So I think the 'method or process of remembering important things' you are looking for may be to repeatedly expose yourself to the information you consider important. For example, for exams a detailed revision schedule might be used to force you to go over key facts in your mind.

It's quite common for memorisers selling "improve your memory" type books to make claims that there are people, perhaps using certain memory systems, that can just memorise something once over and remember it forever, with 100% reliability, and give the impression that no revision is necessary. I'm pretty sceptical of these claims; most of the less hype-prone memorists do talk about having a pretty disciplined revision schedule for remembering things in the long term.


An idea without substantiation (so far): As memory is based on association, aggressive forgetting by re-associating the info to be forgotten with the concept of not-worth-remembering-anymore might work. For instance, if you use a memory palace in which you have put up a vase and a tapestry, take the vase and smash it on the ground, then jump up and down on the shards; rip the tapestry into pieces, then burn the pieces, then scatter the ashes. Of course that won't help at first, but each time you remember the item, you'll probably also remember its destruction, until the place in the memory palace feels free again. Hypnotism also seems to be capable of inducing selective forgetting. While the information is not actually forgotten, the subconscious mind withholds it from the consciousness, resulting in a distinct tip-of-the-tongue, grasping-for-fog feeling. During such moments new associations should be implantable as if the previous fact was really forgotten, in practice overwriting it. These ideas stem from my theoretical knowledge. Ask me in about a year whether they're really worth trying. :)

-- GehWegRevolutionaer

In a similar vein, former world memory champion Dominic O'Brien describes a way of preparing his "journeys" (his name for loci or routes through a memory palace) which could be regarded as selective forgetting. Basically, before he reuses a journey that he has used before, he goes through the journey and imagines it completely empty, with no people or objects. Then he learns something, by populating it with memory images. Then if he wants to remember something else he erases the images by imagining the journey empty, and so on.

When I try this, it sort-of-works, but I still do get interference from previously learned images. In general I rely more on having lots of loci and "resting" them by leaving a long gap between each use - then I have no trouble forgetting the images! Dominic also describes resting the journeys in his books, so I'm not sure how much his "erasing" really helps with forgetting, but it may be an idea worth more exploring.

-- ThufirHawat

the "forgetting curve"

A typical graph of the "forgetting curve" shows that humans tend to halve their memory of newly learned knowledge in a matter of days or weeks unless they consciously review the learned material.

page name

Can you think of a better name for this page ? Perhaps


"How Would It Be to Remember Everything?"