I've been on a kick lately about how we should take more responsibility for our actions, that what we do are personal choices and not actions out of our control.
You may think, too, that forgetfulness is something that we can't control, that it's something our minds do subconsciously. Not true. According to psychology researcher Gerd Thomas Waldhauser at Lund University in Sweden, we can control our memory the same way we control our motor functions.
Waldhauser’s neuroimaging studies were carried out in a laboratory environment where volunteers were asked to practice forgetting, or attempt to forget facts. Through EEG measurements, Waldhauser showed that the same parts of the brain are activated when we restrain a motor impulse and when we suppress a memory. And just as we can practice restraining motor impulses, we can also train ourselves to repress memories.
Waldhauser has not only shown that we can deliberately forget things. Through EEG measurements, he has also managed to capture the exact moment when a memory is inhibited, when the forgetfulness is imposed.
The inhibition of memory eases off after a few hours. But the more often information is suppressed, the more difficult it becomes to retrieve it.
“If the memories have been suppressed over a long period of time, they could be extremely difficult to retrieve,” Waldhauser said.
Remember this next time you meet someone who says she's forgotten your name. She may actually have done that on purpose.
(Story materials provided by Lund University.)