chapter  7
30 Pages

The functional neuroimaging of forgetting

ByBENJAMIN J. LEVY, BRICE A. KUHL, ANTHONY D. WAGNER

Forgetting is a common, often troubling, experience. Failing to remember where we left our keys, the name of a colleague, the meaning of a word we once knew, or an errand that needed to be done on the way home, can be embarrassing and, at times, quite costly. Not all instances of forgetting are unpleasant, however. More often than we realize our goal is actually to forget, rather than remember. For example, forgetting is adaptive when we move and must unlearn information that is no longer relevant, such as our old phone number and address. Similarly, workers who must repeat similar activities throughout a workday, such as a waiter who takes many similar orders in a shift, would likely be better off if they could forget the orders from earlier in the day. Thus, while many of us desire to have a perfect memory, in many ways we would be disadvantaged if we were to remember every experience.