People usually consider forgetting to be a problem - a human frailty to be avoided and overcome. Yet, a memory system that works too well burdens us with irrelevant and distracting information, and makes it difficult to adapt in the aftermath of unpleasant life experiences. Neuroscience has increasingly recognized that a healthy memory benefits from the ability to forget, and has established the existence of active mechanisms that foster forgetting of unwanted memories. Professor Anderson discussed research revealing how the brain accomplishes motivated forgetting, and how these brain mechanisms shape what we remember of life experience, protecting our mental health.
About the speaker:
Michael Anderson is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge. His work focuses on human memory, particularly on the brain mechanisms underlying people’s ability to actively forget. His work has appeared in Nature and Science, has been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American, the New Scientist and BBC.
This lecture was held at the British Academy on 17 September 2015.