Have you realized that you may forget someone’s birthday or anniversary but you can vividly recall that ONE time in school when something terrible happened?

Ever wondered why this happens? Science has the answer.


According to a recent study, it’s because memory retention is linked to clearing out unwanted memories.

Human brain finds it tougher to forget old things than to remember new ones. 

To remember things in our life, our brain must actively make space and forget.  

The study was carried out by Tracy H. Wang, Katerina Placek and Jarrod A. Lewis-Peacock and published in ‘The Journal Of Neuroscience’.

The researchers say that the the process of memorising new things depends on the ability to forget the old, though, most people end up keeping the most unwanted memories. (tell me about it, still singing the Nirma ad song).


As the study simply puts it,

The human brain cannot remember everything — forgetting has a critical role in curating memories and discarding unwanted information. 

By using fMRI and machine learning methods, the study showed new evidence regarding intentional forgetting, which involves an enhancement of memory processing.


Using neuro-imaging to track patterns of brain activity, the researchers showed a group of healthy adults images of scenes and faces, instructions, and then asking them to forget or remember the particular image.

Ivy Exec

Their findings confirmed that humans do indeed have the ability to control what they forget, however, it requires training and activity. Comparatively, more activity was required in forgetting than in remembering.

Another result of the study was that the people found it easier to forget scenery as compared to faces, which leads them to conclude that imagery with emotional information was better retained and hence, needed more brain activity.


According to researcher, Tracy Wang, a moderate level of activity is critical to the forgetting mechanism. Too strong and it will strengthen the memory, too weak, and it’ll end up being modified. 

What the study hopes to achieve eventually is to figure out how to weaken memories and design a treatment to help people get rid of unwanted memories.

The Weekly Spoon

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, anyone?