Active Forgetting
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Active Forgetting

Admission Counselling :
  • Written by UnivAdmitHelp
  • Category: Mentoring
  • Published on 06 Mar 2019

Reading through an article in the Atlantic on active forgetting (How Active Forgetting Makes Memory More Efficient?), it occurred to me that the current age of cheap memory sticks and cameras in every mobile might be making us less smarter. This article postulates that forgetting every minute detail of an experience (as happens in our brains) is an intelligent way to generalize the experience and apply it in similar situations smartly. The importance of an experience lies in storing the gist and eliminating the rest of the details as they become outdated over time. Another article about the role of marketing also implied that.


Taking a cue from nature, it might make sense to have a system that actively helps us manage our digital lives. A system that stores your 1000 photographs from a holiday with family and friends, but beyond some top-20, makes it tedious to retrieve the others. This would be an active way to forget the details and remember the gist but retain the ability to reach out to the depths should the need arise.


An application should follow the same principle. The admissions officer reviews hundreds of applications and his brain needs to keep the gist of the application while forgetting the details. So, writing that you got 99.8% marks in your Board exams vs someone getting 95% marks all gets clubbed as “pretty good academics”. Or competing in chess or cricket at any level, gets clubbed under “played sports competitively”. Therefore, the narrative you present needs to stand out – secured a patent for something, developed a new smell for a boutique, created a portfolio across mediums, performed a classical dance recital in front of 1,000 connoisseurs. These are the kind of stories that cannot be clubbed and hence, the officer remembers them. And when (s)he remembers any part of the unique story; the brain pulls up all the associated information and that recall improves your chances of getting a call.


When working with our young adults on their applications, we tend to use this principle quite extensively. We encourage them to write out their stories and nuggets that cannot be clubbed in a generic manner. The design thinking process we deploy helps create chunks of information that allow for easy retrieval and piecing together of a story that is not easy to forget for the reader. While this process often has the desired impact on the admissions officer, we are happier about the effect it has on the young adult himself/herself. This exercise helps them process through their experiences and solve through issues that had remained unanswered – it is almost cathartic and helps them feel more confident about themselves.

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