Are we meant to forget?
Can you remember what you wore last Monday? How about what you ate for dinner four days ago?
Some of us have problems recalling what we did just last weekend and then there are the rare individuals who are able to remember details from every day of their lives. Hyperthymesiacs, as they are called, are people with highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM).
UC Irvine neurobiologist James McGaugh, was the first to document this condition when a woman named Jill Price contacted him. She thought that she had some serious memory problems — mainly that she couldn’t forget details from her past.
But scientists think there’s a reason why we forget.
“It has long been believed by research scientists that forgetting is adaptive,” McGaugh explains. The idea is that we are only supposed to remember the important things (the things we need to know to survive) and forget the details that would otherwise clutter our mind.
While studying this phenomenon, he and his team found that people with HSAM have no exceptional memory abilities other than being able to recall autobiographical events. They also found some structural brain differences, but they are uncertain whether that causes the HASM, or rather is a result of the ability.
Read more about the people who have superior autobiographical memory