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Researchers at the University of Oregon have demonstrated that one’s capacity for remembering things isn’t derived so much from actual storage capacity, but rather from an individual’s ability to separate the relevant from the irrelevant. This essentially means that people with highly efficient information filters can remember more because less “noise” gets in to pollute the memory area, not necessarily because they have any more memory capacity.

From the ABC news article:

“Until now, it’s been assumed that people with high capacity visual working memory had greater storage, but actually it’s about the bouncer – a neural mechanism that controls what information gets into awareness,” Edward Vogel, who headed the research team, said.

The findings, reported in the journal Nature, overturn the accepted concept of memory capacity, which has suggested that how much a person can remember depends on the amount of information crammed into the brain at one time.

The research team believes the results could lead to better ways to enhance memory and improve the diagnosis and treatment of cognitive problems such as attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia.

Judging from this new evidence, I have determined that my brain’s relevancy filter must have all the filtering power of a hula hoop.

ABC News article