6 Bizarre Things That Make Your Memory Worse Than You Think

Memory is the Konami LaserScope to our Nintendo brain -- it has the potential to be awesome, yet turns out unwieldy and kind of retarded. Any time we try to use our internal Google, our mighty blob of think mulch turns into a grumpy gnome, running around the skull cavity and frantically digging in file cabinets for that ever-missing folder labeled "Where the hell did I put those [dress shoes/shot glasses/assless chaps]?"

Although the finer workings of our memory bones are still surprisingly ill-understood by brainologists, what they have managed to uncover so far indicates that our rememberin' bits are mainly held together with the neuropsychological equivalent of duct tape and a prayer.

On the bright side, this offers us plenty of scientific excuses for forgetting our cousin's birthday.

#6. Your Memory Depends on the Weather

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There's a reason the ability to control weather is such a popular pop culture trope. It's just us wanting to get back at nature because, generally speaking, weather is bullshit. Rainstorms soak clothes and delay big games, tornadoes wreck houses, and unexpected heat waves play merry hell on our mud pit orgies. I don't even have to Google "freak hailstorms" to confidently state that they're the #1 cause of scrotal trauma in nudist colonies.

But the worst weather by far is the kind that gets in your head.

The weather that spin-kicks you in the head is a close second.

Some days it's difficult to remember things and you don't know why. Everything should be fine, yet your brain keeps making farty sounds when you try to remember where you put that winning lottery ticket. It's not your fault. It's just the goddamn weather playing you like a violin.

Louis-Leopold Boilly
Much like Y'Shoggo.

You know how people seem gloomier when the weather gets bad? Research suggests that your memory dislikes bad weather even more than your emotions, and it protests with a tendency to go offline whenever the skies go dark. It works the other way around, too: We seem to remember things better when the weather is nice ... at least for some of us. For multiple sclerosis patients, even cloudless skies are not safe: Hot weather can also be horribly bad for their memory.

And don't you just know that somewhere some dick who missed the "MS" part of that sentence is planning ways to play the "sunshine ruined my memory" card right now?

Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images
"Sorry, Aunt Sarah -- I would have loved to come to the funeral, but my brain just didn't let me."

#5. Your Memory Hates Numbers

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Let's say you have to make an important phone call.

You never remembered to save the number to your phone or ask for a business card, because for the purposes of this story you are a clueless idiot with all adult stuff. What you do have is a crumpled napkin. Shit, you haven't even bothered to write the number down with proper spacing -- all you have there is a long string of numbers.

That ridiculous, ridiculous thing has actually happened to me a couple of times, and I have never once managed to make those calls. To my brain, that long string of numbers might as well have been written in Morse code. By a toddler. That is an orangutan.

Eric Gevaert/Hemera/Getty Images
Nice job, asshole.

Luckily, this is not just me being a dumbass. Science says we all have the same problem.

Most people have a memory that hates numbers. They're the worst goddamn thing our brains have ever seen and, knowing our browser histories, rest assured that they have seen some shit. Unlike letters, numbers don't offer much context. You need to straight up memorize the fuckers, which takes up lots and lots of head space. If the brain isn't careful, it will soon be filled with strings of numbers just zipping around like a big multiplayer game of Snake.

Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images
"Please stop attempting to explain neuropsychology in video game terms."

Luckily, the brain has devised a way to deal with the issue. It commits numbers to memory by quickly vomiting them in small blocks, screaming obscenities with every neuron as it does. If the number in question is one you need often, like a family member's phone number or your own Social Security Number, the blocks will get bigger with time, until you're eventually able to memorize the whole thing like it was a word. This phenomenon is called chunking.

Chun King
The only psychological phenomenon named after a mildly racist snack.

Chunking is the very reason Social Security Numbers, pin codes, and phone numbers are shaped the way they are. Those small blocks of three to five digits are the only way the short term memories of most people are equipped to deal with numbers. It's so official, even the government has come up with ways to work around our stupidity.

#4. Overloading Your Memory Can Wreck Your Impulse Control

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If you're anything like me, large projects that involve lots of studying and memorizing like presentations and tests are poison for your impulse control. I'm not saying I can't hold my own against deadlines -- on the contrary, I've found they respond very well to chin locks. But there's no easier time to let out a bellowing "Fuck yeah!" at the first person offering you a beer than when your brain has been sweating study-blood all day. And then, 10 hours later, you wake up in a bathtub full of ice in Nevada. Now you have to finish your important presentation while trying to figure out what happened last night and locate your missing kidney.

(I'm not saying that last part happens every time. It's 1 in 4, if that.)

VibeImages/iStock/Getty Images
"Sir, the usual room is ready."

Every college student can attest that it's easy to give in to vice when your brain knows it will have to wrestle a shoal of mental squids tomorrow. It's because impulse control and memory have their wires crossed. Their functions are essentially an everlasting game of tug-of-war -- the more brainpower you put behind one, the weaker the other one is bound to become.

This means that the more you load your memory, the more likely you are to cave to your impulses. That's why it's so easy to give in to your friends' keg party calls when you're trying to study for that big test tomorrow, and that's why no one who is using their brain ever has a healthy snack when there's chocolate cake available.

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Not that we're naming any names, celery.

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