Doorways cause forgetting: study

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

Ever walked into a room to get something only to forget why you went there in the first place?

New research from University of Notre Dame psychology professor Gabriel Radvansky suggests that passing through doorways is the cause of these memory lapses.

"Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an 'event boundary' in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away," Radvansky said in a statement. "Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized."

The study was published recently in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Conducting three experiments in both real and virtual environments, Radvansky's subjects – all college students – performed memory tasks while crossing a room and while exiting a doorway.

In the first experiment, Radvansky found that the subjects forgot more after walking through a doorway compared to moving the same distance across a room, suggesting that the doorway or "event boundary" impedes one's ability to retrieve thoughts or decisions made in a different room.

The results of the second experiment - conducted in a real-world setting - replicated those in the virtual world: walking through a doorway diminished subjects' memories.

He says the final experiment - designed to test whether doorways actually served as event boundaries or if one's ability to remember is linked to the environment in which a decision – "showed no improvements in memory, suggesting that the act of passing through a doorway serves as a way the mind files away memories."


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