Forget It

Day to day, what are we most likely to forget and why?


“Why did I come upstairs?”

“Hey look there’s, um, he’s waving at us. Ugh. What’s his name?”

Has anyone seen my car keys?!”

Does any of this sound familiar?

The worst is when our so-called safeguards – ‘where did I hide that thing for safekeeping?’ ‘Who gets which wrapping paper again?’ – fail us.

No need to bury yourself in remedial crosswords. We adults do tend to be rather forgetful, as 2,000 respondents confirmed in a 3M poll. Aimless room wanderings, misplaced keys and groceries topped the Forgotten list.


Top 21 Things We Forget

1. Forget what you went into a room to fetch
2. Misplacing keys
3. Forgetting things on your grocery trip
4. People’s names when you’re introducing them
5. Where you put your pen
6. Taking meat out to defrost
7. Forgetting to respond to an email
8. Forgetting to post something
9. Forgetting what you’re searching for online or on the computer
10. Forgetting where the car was parked
11. Forgetting where you put your wallet down
12. Words to songs
13. Forgetting to get milk/dinner/groceries on your way home
14. Forgetting to respond on social media
15. Forgetting to reply to texts
16. Watering plants
17. Friends’/family’s phone numbers
18. Forgetting to watch a good show
19. Putting washing in the machine and forgetting to switch it on
20. Putting bins out
21. Who has sugar/no sugar in their tea

The number 44 is considered bad luck in some cultures and it’s no wonder. The poll’s Forgotten list goes on and at number 44: forgetting your partner’s birthday. Eep.



Why do we forget so much – from day to day dealings to pivotal moments from major life events?

Dr. Daniel Schacter – award-winning author, Psychology Professor at Harvard University, and Director of Harvard’s Schacter Memory Lab – has long studied how, what and why we forget. Through his research, he has identified Seven key Sins of Memory.


Seven Sins of Memory

Sins of Omission: These are things we ‘forget.’

i. Transience
Retaining less information as we get farther away from the initial memory formation.

ii. Absent-Mindedness
A lack of attention leads to forgetting.

iii. Blocking
Unable to successfully pull out, or retrieve, information that still exists in memory.



Sins of Commission: There is at least a partial memory there but it is unwanted or wrong.

iv. Misattribution
Attributing a memory to the wrong source.

v. Suggestibility
A memory has been implanted in us after we’ve been fed misleading information or fallen prey to suggestion.

vi. Bias
Our memories are being skewed by our current feelings, knowledge or beliefs. Is pandemic stress, uncertainty or quick emotionality having any effect on your day to day memory?

vii. Persistence
Here, we remember ‘too much.’ These are relentless, undesired memories that we cannot shake.


Why do we continue to tumble into these memory traps? These seven ‘sins’, Schacter argues, are byproducts of otherwise adaptive brain processes. Researchers have found, for instance, that absent-minded, wandering thought can be linked to more divergent thinking and creativity.


Header Photo: Amy Shamblen
Photo 2: Hedi Alija


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Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton