Pixabay | rawpixel

Being Forgetful Is A Sign Of High Intelligence, Study Says

People often confuse knowledge of trivia as intelligence, but while they are related, they aren't really the same thing.

Anyone who was able to perfectly memorize their multiplication tables in school but still can't balance a budget knows this. Memorization is a useful skill, but so is the ability to forget information when it's no longer relevant.

I've always been a believer that a clear mind can work better.

Unsplash | Green Chameleon

That's why I'm usually one of the only people taking notes at meetings, even short ones. Not having to force myself to remember every small change in policy or whatever leaves my brain free to work on what's important.

That's not to say I'm not a well of useless information.

Do I need to know the dialogue from The Princess Bride by heart? No, but I do.

Ask me when my Mum's birthday is, though... I'll have to check my calendar.

The prevailing belief for decades has been that the ability to remember stuff is linked to intelligence.

But a new study from the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) shows that it may be just as important to be able to forget.

Blake Richards, a U of T Scarborough assistant professor, says that the goal of memory is about decision making.

University of Toronto

"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," he explained.

In fact, science has shown that the brain puts a lot of focus on forgetting.


"We find plenty of evidence from recent research that there are mechanisms that promote memory loss, and that these are distinct from those involved in storing information," said co-author Paul Frankland.

He is a U of T associate professor and senior scientist of neurosciences and mental health at SickKids.

The ability to make informed decisions quickly and efficiently is a large part of intelligence.

Being able to forget insignificant details and focus on the larger picture helps with that, especially in a world where new info is constantly coming at us.

It's not about how much you remember, but about the quality of those memories.

Richards said, "If you’re trying to make a decision it will be impossible to do so if your brain is constantly being bombarded with useless information."

Trivia is fun, but not necessarily a sign of intelligence.

Flickr | Jessica Johnson LLCC

"We always idealize the person who can smash a trivia game, but the point of memory is not being able to remember who won the Stanley Cup in 1972," he says.

"The point of memory is to make you an intelligent person who can make decisions given the circumstances, and an important aspect in helping you do that is being able to forget some information."

Filed Under: