Feature

Why does entering a room make you forget things?

Psychologists say the simple act of walking through a doorway can make us two to three times more likely to lose track of our thoughts

Have you ever strolled into the kitchen to get something only to immediately forget why you're even there? You're not alone. Psychologists from the University of Notre Dame have discovered a link between walking through doorways and lapses in our short-term memory. Here's what you should know:

How was this study conducted?Psychologist Gabriel Radvansky asked participants to select an object from one table and exchange it for an object at another table in a different room. A control group was asked to do the same task, except their tables were in the same room, at a distance equivalent to the first group's. 

What happened?Even though the task was deceptively simple, the performance between the two groups was "big enough to drive a truck through," says Radvansky. People asked to enter another room were two to three times more likely to forget what they were supposed to do.

Why?Passing through a doorway, whether we're entering or exiting, creates something called an "event boundary" in our mind, says Radvansky. That event boundary "separates episodes of activity and files them away." It's just one of the many tricks our brain uses to keep life organized. Our mind parses events out with "event boundaries" to help us sort through thoughts and memories. But in the case of forgetting things, it's "like the brain is too efficient for its own good, sticking thoughts back in the cabinet before you're done using them," says Cassie Murdoch at Jezebel.

Sources: Jezebel, Life's Little Mysteries, National Geographic

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