It Turns Out Forgetting People Is As Hurtful As You Think It Is

If only we could remember not to do it.

A study from Scotland has proven something we all knew  -- being forgotten really sucks.

If you've ever been the person who sees someone you've met but can't call them anything but "hey, you" or "darl" -- read on, and be prepared to feel bad.

The University of Aberdeen ran four experiments that measured how people interpret forgetting and the results clearly showed that being forgotten by others is damaging, and can cause distress.

One experiment had 56 students keep online “diaries” at the beginning of the year, asking them to detail every single time they were forgotten -- and these times ranged from people forgetting basic facts -- things like names, class years, majors -- to broken commitments (“My friend was supposed to meet me at the library today”), exclusions (“My friends organised a night out, and forgot to ask me”), and confusions of one person for someone else.

The results, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggest that forgetting someone does indeed send the message  we think it does: You simply weren’t interested or invested in that person enough to remember things about them.

The study also found that people who were forgotten felt less close to those who forgot them, regardless of whether the forgetter was a family member or someone they just met.  Devin Ray, who ran the study said, “The good news is that this happens a lot, and people will try their best to be forgiving, the bad news is that, on average, they can’t quite get there.”

We feel you.

Researchers also asked their subjects to do a little soul-searching during the experiments, instructing participants to rate their general feelings of belonging, self-esteem, meaningful existence, and other abstract emotions when they were either forgotten or remembered.  And, heartbreakingly, people who were forgotten reported decreased senses of belonging and meaning in the world. Gah!

It's not all bad -- being forgotten had little to no bearing on people’s self-esteem and other measures of self-comportment in the trials, and even the most pronounced changes were matters of fractions of scale points. But, say researchers, the findings could have a cumulative effect. Like other small stressors, being forgotten could take a toll on people who deal with it often.

Oh our hearts! Time to start doing a little brain training. If only we could remember how to.

Feature image: Getty