As teachers, we earnestly want our students to REMEMBER what they learned; their habit of FORGETTING leave us glum and frustrated.
(In truth, our own forgetting often leaves us glum and frustrated. If you could tell me where I put my to-do list, I’d be grateful.)
In this article at Neuron, authors Blake Richards and Paul Frankland argue that our teacherly priorities don’t quite align with our neurobiology.
In their account, we remember information not simply to have that information, but in order to make good decisions.
In some cases, of course, having more information benefits our decisions, and so our brains are designed to recall that information.
In other cases, however, some kinds of information might well interfere with good decision making.
Specifically, if we forget correctly, we are a) less likely to make decisions based on outdated information, and b) better able to form useful generalizations.
In other words: forgetting is a feature, not a bug.