The Upside of Forgetting

Letting go of extraneous information is key to making new memories. 

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Memory

Memory makes us. If we couldn't recall the who, what, where, and when of our everyday lives, we would never be able to manage. We mull over ideas in the present with our short-term (or working) memory, while we store past events and learned meanings in our long-term (episodic or semantic) memory.

Cognition

Quite simply, cognition refers to thinking. There are the obvious applications of conscious reasoning—doing taxes, playing chess, deconstructing Macbeth—but thought takes many subtler forms, such as interpreting sensory input, guiding physical actions, and empathizing with others. The old metaphor for human cognition was the computer—a logical information-processing machine.