Why we forget 我們為什麼會忘事?

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詞彙:memory 記憶

How is your memory? Remembering things is an important function of our brain – if we can’t recall how to do something, we can’t survive. If you think about it, there is so much we have to remember – from where we left our car keys to how we walk. Maybe it’s no surprise that sometimes we are forgetful.

Memory allows the brain to store and retrieve information when required. Our short-term memory can hold a small amount of information for a short time, while our long-term memory can hold an unlimited amount of information for a long time. Our memory is amazing, but why do we still forget things?

It’s possible we don’t always store information in our memory effectively, maybe because we are in a rush or we consider it irrelevant at the time. When we do store information, we often make connections with other things, which helps us recall it later. If you don’t have these connections, then it can be easier to forget. Writing for the BBC’s Science Focus magazine, Luis Villazon says 「It is also possible that memories decay over time. As they have not been revisited, their biological 『trace’ becomes weak.」 It’s true that if you don’t perform a task for a long period of time, it can be difficult to recall how to do it. This could be because, just like in a computer, our memory is full, or that our short-term memory is easier to access.

But sometimes even our short-term memory can let us down. Have you ever gone into a room to fetch something only to forget what you wanted when you got there? This is called 『The Doorway Effect』. Writing for the BBC Future website, psychologist Tom Stafford explains that this 「occurs because we change both the physical and mental environments, moving to a different room and thinking about different things.」 Put simply, we are metaphorically trying to spin too many plates at the same time.

So, if you have a mind like a sieve, it could be because you have too much on your mind. But we do need to keep our memory sharp by continually using it, especially as beyond our 50s our brains tend to shrink in volume and our memory begins to decline. That’s when we’re at more risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.

However, as Luis Villazon says, 「Forgetting is not always a bad thing! It would waste cognitive resources if we remembered every detail of the world around us.」 That’s something worth remembering!

詞彙表

recall 回想起
forgetful 健忘的
store 儲存
retrieve 找回
short-term 短期的
long-term 長期的
effectively 有效地
irrelevant 無關緊要的
decay 減弱,衰退
revisit 重新回想
The Doorway Effect 「門口效應」(指瞬間忘事的現象)
physical 物質的
mental 精神的,心理的
spin too many plates 兼顧太多事情
a mind like a sieve 「記憶像濾網」,容易忘事,健忘
on your mind 腦子裡想著
sharp 敏銳的,機敏的
Alzheimer’s disease 阿爾茨海默病
cognitive resources 認知資源

測驗與練習

1.  閱讀課文並回答問題。

1. How much information can our long-term memory hold?

2. What can happen to our memory when we are in a rush to do things?

3. When can it be difficult to recall how to do a task?

4. At roughly what age does our memory begin to decline?

5. What do psychologists call it when we forget why we have gone into a room to do something?

2.  選擇意思恰當的單詞或詞組來完成下列句子。

1. I’m so _______ that I can’t even remember my own birthday!

forgetting                       forgettable                     forgetful                     forgetted

2. I need to _______ some important documents from the office before it closes for the weekend.

recall                              retrieve                         irrelevant                    decay

3. After doing my accounts I need some _______ relaxation such as listening to some classical music.

physical                          mental                          sharp                          effectively

4. At work I have to _______ – it’s hard to know what I am doing some of the time.

spinned too many plates                                     spin too many plate

spun too many plates                                          spin too many plates

5. She has a _______ mind and is quick to spot a good business opportunity.

sharp                              effectively                     physical                      long-term

答案

1.  閱讀課文並回答問題。  

1. How much information can our long-term memory hold?
In theory, our long-term memory can hold an unlimited amount of information for a long time.

2. What can happen to our memory when we are in a rush to do things?
We might not be able to store information in our memory effectively.

3. When can it be difficult to recall how to do a task?
If we don’t perform a task for a long period of time, it can be difficult to recall how to do it.

4. At roughly what age does our memory begin to decline?
Beyond our 50s, our brains tend to shrink in volume and our memory begins to decline.

5. What do psychologists call it when we forget why we have gone into a room to do something?
It’s called 『The Doorway Effect’.

2.  選擇意思恰當的單詞或詞組來完成下列句子。

1. I’m so forgetful that I can’t even remember my own birthday!

2. I need to retrieve some important documents from the office before it closes for the weekend.

3. After doing my accounts I need some mental relaxation such as listening to some classical music.

4. At work I have to spin too many plates – it’s hard to know what I am doing some of the time.

5. She has a sharp mind and is quick to spot a good business opportunity.