How are we so forgetful?

How often have you found yourself doing something or in the middle of the task when you start to forget parts of it? For example, maybe you put in a load of laundry and already started the cycle. You start to walk out but then stop yourself, and start to think "Did I forget to do something?" and stand there for a few seconds then go "Oh shoot!" as you have just remembered/realized that you forgot to put detergent in the wash. That's just one example, but forgetfulness is something that happens to a lot of people in their everyday lives.


But why are we forgetful? Why is it we tend to forget things that seem to be easy to remember? Unlike computers which can always remember any data and information that is put on it, we humans do not have such a power as we are imperfect, fallible creatures. So why do we tend to forget things? well one reason that is seen as common knowledge is the fact that as we get older our body's and brains start to get less and less productive which leads to more and more instances of us forgetting things. This article from the National Institute on Aging explains "Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don't remember information as well as they did, or they lose things like their glasses." (NIH, October 2013). As you can see, forgetfulness is something that becomes more and more common with older age, no one is immune to it as it happens to the best of us on different occasions.

But there are different reasons we can be forgetful and those are by health related reasons. The first to come to mind is the disease of Alzheimer's which affects the elderly in which the brain starts to degrade and their ability to remember things starts to be severely limited and it usually leads to death. The elderly are mostly affected by the effects of forgetfulness while the younger people tend to have less and less instances of forgetting things. Sometimes forgetfulness can stem from something less like emotional problems like stress, anxiety, or depression or it can be from something other more serious health issues such as mild cognitive impairment or dementia (NIH, October 2013).

So in short, Forgetfulness is something we can not avoid. It is something that happens to the best of us and we are just going to have to accept it. It is a part of life and it will probably happen more and more often as we get older, but we have to live with it. It's just the way we humans are.


As your example of laundry detergent and forgetting to put it in the wash machine is also similar to checking the time on our phone but end up having to check it twice because you already forgot it the first time. I don't feel like this is forgetting I feel like this is more of a routine that we do so much that we don't even pay attention. More like a habit that were going through the motions and not paying close enough attention to by putting the detergent in the machine or the time on our phone. I feel that this is more like the "Tetris Effect" where you can learn more about on this website where you learn a new thing and the more repetition you do, the better you are at it and in this case your brain gets more accustomed to doing the laundry. So the brain would not have to work as hard to complete this task because it only uses the parts of the brain it needs to get the job done, making there more room for error and therefore you forgetting to put the detergent in the wash machine.

I'm glad you posted this because I'm always forgetting little things as well, and even important things! I say "What was I going to say" at least 3 times a day, haha. Sometimes I actually get worried about it because my great grandmother suffered from Alzheimer's disease, and it was hard on my whole family to see her in that condition. People say that Alzheimer's skips a generation, and if that's true I would be lucky enough not to inherit the disease. But on the other hand, that would mean my mother would be screwed basically. Anyway, here's a link on how to improve and strengthen your memory! Enjoy! :)

In psychology, there are two types of intelligence. Crystallized intelligence and fluid intelligence. Crystallized intelligence is basic facts and information that we store. Whereas fluid intelligence is your ability to reason, think and think logically. With that being said, you're fluid intelligence is likely to decrease with age, whereas your crystallized intelligence will increase with age. People say "the older, the wiser," which makes sense in terms of crystallized intelligence. Older folks have been in more situations, had a longer life to learn and acquire new information, therefore crystallized intelligence increases with age. Fluid intelligence may decrease with age since our ability to "remember" and make spot-on decisions may not be as strong as when we were young. Learn more about type of intelligence here:

Not only do we have types of intelligence that can relate to forgetfulness, but there are different branches of our memory itself. We are lucky enough to have a long-term memory, a short-term memory and a working memory. Forgetting the detergent can most likely be blamed on our short term memory. Since our short term memory can usually hold around 7 items, that may explain how you could've forgotten such a "habitual" aspect of laundry as Danielle states. In terms of psychology, psychologists use the "magical plus or minus seven number" to estimate the capacity of what our short-term can hold. Therefore, I feel as though a lot of our forgetfulness may be due to short-term memory loss. This website will explain short-term memory loss more in depth!

This post interested me because I am a very forgetful person. Many times I'll walk into a room and completely forget why I came in in the first place. I found some interesting things about being forgetful. One article I was looking at says that walking through a doorway can cause a person to forget more than if they were walking across a room. Doors serve as "memory boundaries." This idea that walking through a door makes people forget more easily was tested by having students put objects in a box and then either carry the box across the room or through a door. The students who carried it through the door had trouble remembering what they just put in the box compared to the ones who took the box across the room. If you are interested in finding more information about this then here is the link below.

I forget something somewhere at least twice a day, so this blog caught my eye. Another reason people can be forgetful is definitely a lack of attentiveness. Here's a link to a website that talks about why it's so common for people with ADHD to forget things so easily too!

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