Many times I’ve started reminiscing about a vacation we shared with a lover, a movie we saw, or a trip we took—only to discover how little he remembers the event.
I could remember what I wore, what I discussed, where I went, even what I ate, all were obscure to him. And they were very intelligent and kind people; By no means naughty.
I enjoy this feature: remember. But I must admit, there are things I prefer to forget.
While I often dwell on what I did or said years ago, many men seem to live in the here and now. And it’s not hard to blame one area of the brain: the hippocampus. A primary part of the memory system is filled with receptors for estrogen – essentially the female hormone.
So, it is not undesirable to remember women more than men. After all, we can hold a grudge. And we are not alone.
I know of a female chimpanzee who harbored a grudge for over 20 years. While walking with her baby in the woods one morning, a deranged neighbor took her baby for slaughter, as he had done with others. The seasoned mother rescued her wailing child, and bore a life-long enmity to the thief.
Like female chimpanzees, ancestral women had to remember smaller crimes over the years, as they struggled to raise their helpless young.
But why do men forget? Testosterone may play a role.
Transgender men report that three months after testosterone injections during gender-affirmation procedures, they begin to live more in the here and now; They remember less about the past. High testosterone men Also appears to focus more on the here-and-now.
And like women’s heightened memory for any type of crime, men’s lack of memory for transgressions is adaptive.
For millions of years men had to put aside their differences to hunt together. Surely they remember serious betrayals (as modern people do); But it was also expedient to ignore, indeed to forget, minor quibbles to get them to work.
These ancestral differences can also play out in business. After a nasty office fight, all the men would go out for a beer together, while all the women would go home alone, often hostile or wary for days or weeks.
So the next time she can’t remember the details of your wonderful vacation together, just remind her. He’ll be relieved that you didn’t trick him into forgetting; And you can regale him with juicy tidbits of this precious time.
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Helen Fisher Ph.D., a biological anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute and chief scientific advisor to the dating site Match. He is the author of the book The Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Dating, Marriage, and Why We Go astray, Among other titles.