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The Science Behind Forgetting Where we Put Something


Tags: lost items, forgotten items, forget clothes, forget, memory, bad memory, lost keys, lost sunglasses

Macie blog photo

By Macie Berlin on September 16, 2015

 

My mother calls my memory “gifted.” I can recall every relative’s birthday, anniversary and age within a matter of seconds. I can pull up memories so specific that they will often appear in my mind down to the details like outfits, expressions and intermittent noise. I still remember dreams from when I was 4 years old, I can match names and faces with ease and I often can correct others’ recollections into more precise declarations as well.

 

I cannot, however, find my sunglasses, shoes or car keys half the time.

 

I forget to pack my toothpaste for vacations.

 

I have lost numerous pairs of earrings, bags and sweaters throughout years of putting something down and forgetting to pick it back up.

 

Why? Why can I so gracefully recount seemingly more difficult memories as opposed to remembering daily items? And how do I fix it?

 

According to science, single memories are not really singular at all. They are composed of many different elements. If someone asks me what I ate for breakfast this morning, the two eggs, toast and coffee is not one image; I am actually extracting (or encoding) the name of the items, their shape, look and maybe even taste.

 

Similarly, the actual process of formulating a memory is composed of multiple systems - not just one. Brain cells send and receive different signals at different times in order to encode what is going on during memory making. Without getting too technical, memories involve the three R’s - registering, retaining and retrieving a memory.

 

So why can’t I remember where I placed my most needed belongings? There are a few possibilities:

 

  1. I didn’t register the memory. In this scenario, it’s not that I forgot where I put something; it’s that I never actually created a memory. Perhaps I put my keys down on the kitchen counter while I was unloading the groceries, but if I was distracted or focused elsewhere, the memory may have never actually registered to my brain to begin with.

  2. I didn’t retain the registered memory.Maybe I was focusing on my hand placing my keys on the kitchen counter during the unloading phase, but the system working to keep this memory present is stuck. The image is there, but I was unable to bring the memory forward. I know I saw it happen, but I did not retain the details to help me remember.

  3. I can’t retrieve the memory. I put the keys on the counter. I paid attention. I even held onto the information and image. Alas, I still can’t seemingly remember - at least when I want to. This means that there is a mismatch between retrieval codes and encoding the memory; I may be able to remember at a later time, but the system is down for now.

 

Regardless of which ‘R’ malfunctioned, I am out of luck with a mangled memory.

 

Enter technology. TrackR has no problem registering, retaining and retrieving my belongings far better than I can - all without the complicated systems that make up a memory. My TrackR keeps my items safe and my conscious sound. I can track anything I want quickly and efficiently and I can rest easy knowing that I won’t lose time and energy trying to remember something that - quite frankly - I can’t!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Macie blog photo

Macie Berlin

Macie is the Content Marketer at TrackR and helps bring stories and tips to life. She loves all Pat Conroy novels and hanging out with loveable dogs!