How can I burn up my sad memories

Psychology: How to erase memories from memory

Sunbeams shimmering through the lace curtain on the kitchen window, a floral apron and the scent of fresh apple pie: it looks something like that, the memory of many of their own grandmother. It is the details of a recurring situation that our brain saves when we do not want to forget something. Memory trainers therefore advise you to associate numbers or words that you want to remember with pictures or situations and then to walk through them in your mind one by one. So you can easily keep 20 decimal places of the number "Pi".

But what if you don't want to save a situation, but rather want to forget it again? Anyone who has ever studied for a pointless test knows that this works in principle. Often, a few days later you can no longer remember the material. Just how exactly a person is capable of deliberately forgetting things was not yet known. But there is a theory. And just now psychologists have succeeded in proving that it is at least very close to the truth.

Jeremy Manning of Dartmouth University and Kenneth Norman of the Princeton Department of Neuroscience wondered whether the process of forgetting might work in much the same way as that of storing a memory - through its context. The two researchers recruited 25 subjects to find out if they were right. They published their results in the journal “Psychosomatic Bulletin & Review”.

The list experiment

The women and men between the ages of 19 and 34 were shown a total of 16 randomly selected words such as “China”, “teacher” or “spring” for three seconds each. In the seconds between the words, the test subjects saw three images of mountains, beaches, lakes or forests. Manning and Norman hoped these sceneries would serve as context for remembering the words.

In the end, the test subjects were either asked to forget the words immediately or to keep them in mind. Next, the researchers showed them another 16 words, this time with no pictures in the meantime. The researchers repeated the experiment a total of eight times with each subject. The words and pictures were different every time.