Forget it

This column originally appeared in The Observer Magazine/Guardian online

Do you have a good memory? And what does this mean for your psychological wellbeing?

To find out, first read these descriptions of two big earners

Dave (who earns £73,412 a year) is described by his colleagues as a nice guy who always works hard, and is a pleasure to be around. He often has lunch at the local café, whose staff describe him as polite and pleasant. He always gives a generous tip.

Frank (who earn £78,305 a year) is described by his colleagues as grumpy and rude, who skives off as much as possible, and is a pain to be around. He often has lunch at the local café, whose staff describe him as bad-mannered and unpleasant. He never gives a tip.

Next, get a piece of paper and list all your GCSE grades (or equivalent).

Finally, without looking back at the descriptions above, answer the question at the bottom of the page.

memory

What do your answers say about you? A growing body of research suggests that, in fact, having a bad memory is actually good for your psychological wellbeing. For example, did you get the salaries right? A recent study found that people who forgot the correct figures tended to recall a salary that was too high for the nice guy (Dave) and too low for the grumpy one (Frank). In other words, your memory does you a favour by righting perceived wrongs. And what about those GCSE results (go on, dig those certificates out of the attic and check)? Another recent study found that while University students had almost perfect memory for their As (89% correct) they tended to conveniently forget their Ds. So having a bad memory can actually be a good thing: In the absence of the facts, your brain concocts a story that actually suits you rather nicely, thank you.

 

Question: How much do Dave (the nice one) and Frank (the grumpy one) earn?

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