Skip to main content

Badger Talks: Is the pandemic affecting our memory?

May 13, 2021 By Veronica Rueckert

If – over the past year — you’ve had trouble finding the right word, remembering to pick something up at the grocery store, or recalling something that happened a few months ago, you’re not alone.

It turns out, the pandemic has been challenging for the memory. In this Badger Talks, Haley Vlach walks us through the reasons why the pandemic has been so challenging for our memory.

Vlach is an associate professor of educational sciences and an expert on how memory develops. Vlach says the pandemic robbed us of our “memory cues,” in-person reminders of things we needed to do or to recall that are typically part of our daily routine in non-pandemic life.

“Turns out,” she says, “that the pandemic is a perfect storm for causing forgetting.”

Another cause of forgetfulness is the uptick of multi-tasking brought on by the pandemic. Many of us have combined aspects of our life in a way we’ve never done before, like parenting and working, and that means we’re likely to forget something in both those arenas.

Other factors that have contributed to pandemic-related memory glitches are social isolation and the background noise of anxiety, according to Vlach. But there’s good news. As restrictions ease and life returns to normal, Vlach says the memory will bounce back. But there may be a silver-lining to all the forgetfulness of the past year. All the unpleasant stuff you don’t want to remember? Some of those memories may be gone, too.