THE brain, with its 100 billion neurons, allows us to do amazing things like learn multiple languages, or build things that send people into outer space. Yet despite this astonishing capacity, we routinely can’t remember where we put our keys, we forget why we went to the grocery store, and we fail when trying to recall personal life events.
One problem with memory involves knowing something is stored but being unable to retrieve the information. The theory why this occurs is called memory decay, which suggests that each new memory creates a ‘trace’ that can fade away if not accessed regularly.
Sometimes, we just don’t store the information we take in, or just fail to store it to long-term memory. Our short-term memory can only recall about seven things in the span of about 30 seconds, and after that, it becomes more difficult. Distractions can also be a big factor in being unable to store information, whether we cause them ourselves or whether they come from outside.
Multitasking can play a huge part in memory failure. Switching back and forth between tasks, whether it is be by choice or because of interruptions, can severely impair our ability to focus. Although you might think switching between several tasks is more productive, the sad truth is that it forces your brain to ‘reset’ each time you switch tasks. That can actually increase the time needed to complete each task.