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Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering

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"Fascinating and useful . . . The distinguished memory researcher Scott A. Small explains why forgetfulness is not only normal but also beneficial."--Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of The Code Breaker and Leonardo da Vinci Who wouldn't want a better memory? Dr. Scott Small has dedicated his career to understanding why memory forsakes us. As director of the Alzheimer's "Fascinating and useful . . . The distinguished memory researcher Scott A. Small explains why forgetfulness is not only normal but also beneficial."--Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of The Code Breaker and Leonardo da Vinci Who wouldn't want a better memory? Dr. Scott Small has dedicated his career to understanding why memory forsakes us. As director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Columbia University, he focuses largely on patients who experience pathological forgetting, and it is in contrast to their suffering that normal forgetting, which we experience every day, appears in sharp relief. Until recently, most everyone--memory scientists included--believed that forgetting served no purpose. But new research in psychology, neurobiology, medicine, and computer science tells a different story. Forgetting is not a failure of our minds. It's not even a benign glitch. It is, in fact, good for us--and, alongside memory, it is a required function for our minds to work best. Forgetting benefits our cognitive and creative abilities, emotional well-being, and even our personal and societal health. As frustrating as a typical lapse can be, it's precisely what opens up our minds to making better decisions, experiencing joy and relationships, and flourishing artistically. From studies of bonobos in the wild to visits with the iconic painter Jasper Johns and the renowned decision-making expert Daniel Kahneman, Small looks across disciplines to put new scientific findings into illuminating context while also revealing groundbreaking developments about Alzheimer's disease. The next time you forget where you left your keys, remember that a little forgetting does a lot of good.


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"Fascinating and useful . . . The distinguished memory researcher Scott A. Small explains why forgetfulness is not only normal but also beneficial."--Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of The Code Breaker and Leonardo da Vinci Who wouldn't want a better memory? Dr. Scott Small has dedicated his career to understanding why memory forsakes us. As director of the Alzheimer's "Fascinating and useful . . . The distinguished memory researcher Scott A. Small explains why forgetfulness is not only normal but also beneficial."--Walter Isaacson, bestselling author of The Code Breaker and Leonardo da Vinci Who wouldn't want a better memory? Dr. Scott Small has dedicated his career to understanding why memory forsakes us. As director of the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Columbia University, he focuses largely on patients who experience pathological forgetting, and it is in contrast to their suffering that normal forgetting, which we experience every day, appears in sharp relief. Until recently, most everyone--memory scientists included--believed that forgetting served no purpose. But new research in psychology, neurobiology, medicine, and computer science tells a different story. Forgetting is not a failure of our minds. It's not even a benign glitch. It is, in fact, good for us--and, alongside memory, it is a required function for our minds to work best. Forgetting benefits our cognitive and creative abilities, emotional well-being, and even our personal and societal health. As frustrating as a typical lapse can be, it's precisely what opens up our minds to making better decisions, experiencing joy and relationships, and flourishing artistically. From studies of bonobos in the wild to visits with the iconic painter Jasper Johns and the renowned decision-making expert Daniel Kahneman, Small looks across disciplines to put new scientific findings into illuminating context while also revealing groundbreaking developments about Alzheimer's disease. The next time you forget where you left your keys, remember that a little forgetting does a lot of good.

30 review for Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering

  1. 4 out of 5

    MIKE Watkins Jr.

    This book is interesting in that it introduces the idea that forgetting is not inherently bad. "Discovering that Nature granted us separate molecular toolboxes actively dedicated to memory on the one hand and forgetting on the other clearly refutes the common view that forgetting is just failing memory. But this does not necessarily mean that normally occurring forgetting is beneficial—a seductive and potentially false conclusion." I love how the author gives us a breakdown of the 3 main anatomica This book is interesting in that it introduces the idea that forgetting is not inherently bad. "Discovering that Nature granted us separate molecular toolboxes actively dedicated to memory on the one hand and forgetting on the other clearly refutes the common view that forgetting is just failing memory. But this does not necessarily mean that normally occurring forgetting is beneficial—a seductive and potentially false conclusion." I love how the author gives us a breakdown of the 3 main anatomical actors within the brain. This information enables the reader to better follow/understand the contrast between memorizing and forgetting in this book. The brain is composed of the posterior area, which is where many of our most cherished memories are stored. The brain is also composed of the hippocampus, which "allows the brain to properly save these memories". And last but not least....the prefrontal cortex, located right behind our foreheads, is the general area that helps us open and retrieve memories. The reason i'm giving this book 3 stars is because it rarely addresses the main topic. The 2nd half of this book dives into deep neurological issues that deviate from the overarching theme of the book. This section also ends up being boring as well in comparison to the first half. The main benefit of forgetting, along with the sub benefits of sorts i got from this book, are listed below. Main benefit: both normal memory and normal forgetting work in unison to balance our minds so that we can easily engage in chaotic and sometimes hurtful environments." Sub benefits: 1. Behavioral flexibility, enabling t he mind to remove irrelevant thoughts and replace it with new ones. 2. The ability to Generalize: People with autism can memorize just about anything...but as a result, they get caught up in the specifics. This specific focus results in the lack of ability to generalize/see the bigger picture. Forgetting certain specifics enables us to better see the general view of something. Overall this is a solid book...but it didn't focus enough on forgetting and focused a lot more on just general neurology.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sara Goldenberg

    it wasn't about the brain, it was about Alzheimer's. It's not bad, it's just limited. it wasn't about the brain, it was about Alzheimer's. It's not bad, it's just limited.

  3. 5 out of 5

    J Earl

    Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering by Scott A Small is a fascinating and accessible look at how forgetting works in the brain and why it is beneficial when functioning normally. While the explanations are detailed Small manages to explain neurological concepts in terms most readers can understand and appreciate. The funny thing about forgetting is that it has long been subtly believed to be good to an extent (for instance, my long time comments about not bothering to remember things I do Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering by Scott A Small is a fascinating and accessible look at how forgetting works in the brain and why it is beneficial when functioning normally. While the explanations are detailed Small manages to explain neurological concepts in terms most readers can understand and appreciate. The funny thing about forgetting is that it has long been subtly believed to be good to an extent (for instance, my long time comments about not bothering to remember things I don't need) while also being something we're all afraid of. Basically the difference between selective forgetting and pathological forgetting. What we haven't understood until recently is just how much forgetting is a natural part of our memory and knowledge making as well as how forgetting plays a role in many different conditions. Small does a wonderful job of walking us through understanding the processes involved and the different disciplines where forgetting is important, whether our natural forgetting or when we forget too much or too little. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy more detailed popular science books and especially those curious about our brains, our psychological make-up, and what the current science has to say about it all. While I have played up the accessibility aspect, this book is also an engaging read that was fun from beginning to end. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul Mcguire

    Forgetting brings together a variety of areas of brain research to explore the benefits of our tendency to forget. This is examined through the experience of autistic people and those with ptsd in early chapters. Both show ways that too much memory can make it difficult to function. Other chapters explore the role sleep plays in helping us forget, making room for our ability to make new memories the next day.  The last two chapters explore alzheimers disease through the research that currently ex Forgetting brings together a variety of areas of brain research to explore the benefits of our tendency to forget. This is examined through the experience of autistic people and those with ptsd in early chapters. Both show ways that too much memory can make it difficult to function. Other chapters explore the role sleep plays in helping us forget, making room for our ability to make new memories the next day.  The last two chapters explore alzheimers disease through the research that currently exists. There are still many questions about the disease that have of been answered. As someone without a scientific background I was able to follow along without much difficulty. The ending may frustrate readers looking for more answers because there is still much to learn about the disease. But it is good to know that research is rapidly progressing. Most of us will witness alzheimers in a friend or family member so I find it comforting to learn more about how the disease progresses. This book won't give you any tools to help stop your own experience of forgetting. But it might help you better accept it as a necessary part of life. Anyone interested in neuroscience and how the brain works should pick this up. It is accessible and easy to read for the science enthusiast.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Trish Ryan

    A consideration of the research and brain science that guides our current understanding of memory and memory loss, Forgetting reads more like a yard sale of stories and information than a coherent narrative. I was interested in the book’s thesis - that forgetting is actually a good thing, an optimal capacity of a healthy brain - but the chapters never quite settled in to deliver on that promise. I did appreciate the author’s sensitivity and sense of humor, which makes his storytelling enjoyable. A consideration of the research and brain science that guides our current understanding of memory and memory loss, Forgetting reads more like a yard sale of stories and information than a coherent narrative. I was interested in the book’s thesis - that forgetting is actually a good thing, an optimal capacity of a healthy brain - but the chapters never quite settled in to deliver on that promise. I did appreciate the author’s sensitivity and sense of humor, which makes his storytelling enjoyable. Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    It would be nice to pick and choose forgetfulness, but that isn't how it works. I just visited an elderly relative who is beginning to suffer from some form of dementia. Her short term memory is vanishing, sadly, she seems to recognizes that fact., scary. This was as an enlightening read about memory and forgetfulness. As I am creeping into my senior years, it's feeling like I should go armed, aware of my brain and how it works and how it can impact my future life. Well worth the read. I received It would be nice to pick and choose forgetfulness, but that isn't how it works. I just visited an elderly relative who is beginning to suffer from some form of dementia. Her short term memory is vanishing, sadly, she seems to recognizes that fact., scary. This was as an enlightening read about memory and forgetfulness. As I am creeping into my senior years, it's feeling like I should go armed, aware of my brain and how it works and how it can impact my future life. Well worth the read. I received a Kindle arc from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Holly Haze

    Super interesting especially since my mom passed away from complications with Alzheimer’s. I always wondered the differences in plain old age forgetfulness and dementia and Alzheimer’s were. Dr Small goes in to great detail, almost loses me with the science talk, but I powered through. I found it interesting and although my mom was not able to see the benefits of so much research, I am hopeful that someday there will be a cure.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karendale2

    I liked the subject of this book. Acknowledges you can’t remember anything before three due to brain maturation. Lots arguments presented on how the brain works and protects itself. You don’t want to remember everything.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Batson

    Interesting enough, if not a little limited/specific.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sandee Priser

    A nice overview of the brain science related to memory. I was disappointed that the subtitle on benefits if not remembering was not fleshed out more fully.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Intriguing New Science. For much of human history and even for much of the last few hundred years - when our scientific knowledge has seemingly gone into warp drive itself, sleep was said to be nothing more than the land of dreams, that humans could work at peak efficiency without much of it at all. Forgetfulness, even in many circles now, has been seen as a negative of various extremes, from embarrassing to debilitating. But what if we've had it all wrong, and forgetting is actually one of our Intriguing New Science. For much of human history and even for much of the last few hundred years - when our scientific knowledge has seemingly gone into warp drive itself, sleep was said to be nothing more than the land of dreams, that humans could work at peak efficiency without much of it at all. Forgetfulness, even in many circles now, has been seen as a negative of various extremes, from embarrassing to debilitating. But what if we've had it all wrong, and forgetting is actually one of our more *useful* adaptations? What if sleep actually plays a significant part of this process? Here, neuroscientist Small examines what we've learned - in many cases, much of it over the last decade in particular - about just how imperative forgetfulness is to the very existence of the human body and human society more generally. From the social/ societal benefits all the way to the molecular, intra-cranial benefits, Small examines it all in a text that is clear enough to work in the "popular science" realm while still giving plenty of technical and precise details. Very much recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Socrate

    Printre numeroasele metafore pentru memorie, cea a unui computer personal este una bună. De fapt, este mai bine decât o simplă metaforă, modul în care funcționează un computer personal se dovedește a fi o analogie excelentă pentru modul în care creierul nostru stochează, salvează și recuperează amintiri. Nu este o coincidență, deoarece atât inginerii de computere, cât și cei ce studiază creierul trebuie să rezolve aceleași trei probleme în a învăța cum să gestioneze cel mai bine cantități mari d Printre numeroasele metafore pentru memorie, cea a unui computer personal este una bună. De fapt, este mai bine decât o simplă metaforă, modul în care funcționează un computer personal se dovedește a fi o analogie excelentă pentru modul în care creierul nostru stochează, salvează și recuperează amintiri. Nu este o coincidență, deoarece atât inginerii de computere, cât și cei ce studiază creierul trebuie să rezolve aceleași trei probleme în a învăța cum să gestioneze cel mai bine cantități mari de informații: unde să stochezi amintiri, cum să salvezi amintiri în zona de stocare dedicată și cum să deschizi și să recuperezi amintirile la cerere. Pentru acest joc de memorie, creierul nostru are trei actori anatomici principali. O colecție de regiuni către partea din spate a creierului, pe care, pentru simplitate, o voi numi zona posterioară, este locul unde sunt stocate multe dintre cele mai prețuite amintiri ale noastre. O structură îngropată adânc în cortexul temporal al creierului, hipocampul, permite creierului să salveze corect aceste amintiri. Iar o zonă din cortexul prefrontal, situată chiar în spatele frunții noastre, este zona generală care ne ajută să deschidem și să recuperăm amintiri. Ori de câte ori salvați un document pe hard diskul computerului sau deschideți un fișier stocat anterior, vă jucați cu memoria computerului, la fel cum creierul dvs. face cu al dvs.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kendra

    I’m on record for my extreme aversion to forgetting. Just weeks ago I confessed on my blog that my dream superpower would be to have a pristine memory. In his book Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering, Dr. Scott Small (director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Colombia University) argues that remembering isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that forgetting is actually pivotal for proper brain functioning. Until recently, scientists did not understand the purpose of forgetting, I’m on record for my extreme aversion to forgetting. Just weeks ago I confessed on my blog that my dream superpower would be to have a pristine memory. In his book Forgetting: The Benefits of Not Remembering, Dr. Scott Small (director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Colombia University) argues that remembering isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that forgetting is actually pivotal for proper brain functioning. Until recently, scientists did not understand the purpose of forgetting, but current research in the fields of psychology, neurobiology, medicine, and computer science are shedding light on this aspect of our cognition, revealing that forgetting is not a shortcoming but is actually pivotal for optimal mental health. Dr. Small digs deep into the research to explain how and why we experience lapses in memory and how this forgetfulness is crucial for decision making, emotional intelligence, creativity, complex forms of thinking and processing, life satisfaction, and relational health. This book is dry in parts, getting pretty deep into the brain science and mechanics of cognition. But Dr. Small does a good job of interpreting the data and helping draw meaningful conclusions and applications. I was shocked by many of the book’s findings and found relief and hope in learning that something I’ve long resented (my forgetfulness) is actually beneficial. This book offers hope for those whose loved ones have experienced dementia or are fearful of the disease themselves. It is both a fascinating and useful read that, like so many books related to the body, left me marveling at God’s handiwork in creating such complex beings. I won’t remember every detail of this book. Generally this is something that would bother me, but this book has taught me that forgetting parts of what I read is just fine. My Rating; 4 Stars. This review first appeared on my personal blog, https://kendranicole.net/september-20... Please visit my site for more book reviews: https://kendranicole.net/category/boo...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kate TerHaar

    This is a detailed, yet readable book on the workings of the brain and. its role in the memory process. Fascinating look at how forgetting is a normal and natural process and not necessarily something to worry about. Wouldn't it be great if we could choose what we forgot and what we remember, but I digress. This is a detailed, yet readable book on the workings of the brain and. its role in the memory process. Fascinating look at how forgetting is a normal and natural process and not necessarily something to worry about. Wouldn't it be great if we could choose what we forgot and what we remember, but I digress.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Willow

    Very interesting stuff!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ravi Warrier

  17. 5 out of 5

    Virginia Seymour

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rahul

  19. 4 out of 5

    Airi

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

  22. 5 out of 5

    Heidi Hardner

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kristofer Flores

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roman

  26. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  27. 5 out of 5

    Dima Yousef Jadaan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lara

  29. 4 out of 5

    Seth Morris

  30. 5 out of 5

    Marce

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