Why We Forget Why We Entered A Room. Doorway Amnesia: The Struggle is Real.
Ever enter a room and forget why you were there in the first place?
You’re not alone – this is all too common. Then we get to play mandatory charades with the poor individual who happened to be in the room.
Dude, what was I doing here?
Um, why did I come here again?
I could swear I walked in here for a reason.
Why am I holding a spatula in the living room?
But it’s not the room– it’s the door. This is a psychological effect that occurs when you pass through a gateway of some sort. Psychologists call this an ‘event boundary’—a signal in your mind clearing an episode of memory and creating another, as your environment changes, your mind packs up information and opens a fresh slate to start collecting new information.
You're not crazy, or senile... yet. And there's a study to prove it.
There was actually a study done at the university of Notre Dame where people were asked to carry imaginary objects from one table to another then pick up a new one and so on. This was done both as a video virtual reality game and in person.
Basically the people had to just remember what item they carried, in the real version the item was placed in a box, in virtual reality it was simply invisible. The point is they had to remember what they were holding.
So yada, yada, yada... here's what happened: Every so often they got a pop quiz with a simple question... What are you holding? Even though they walked the same distance, even though it was a simple thing to remember, the people who walked through a door seemed to be forgetting what they were holding way more often. The door was, indeed, giving them the amnesia... of sorts.
So yeah, no. You're not loosing your mind.
But now lets ask a more important question... Why?
Imagine your mind is a cloud like Dropbox or Google Drive. You're not just going to be constantly and randomly be throwing files in there and end up with a list of thousands of files that then you can't make heads or tails of. What are you going to do? You are going to make folders.
A folder for your taxes, there you put all your files and W2s and anything for the IRS.
A folder for your kids pictures, where you put all those JPEGS of baby Jimmy and toddler Jimmy.
And so on...
This is what your mind is doing to your experiences, when you pass a doorway your brain has been creating a folder, and there goes everything you see hear taste and smell. Then it closes the folder and makes a new one for the next room... and therefore you frequently find yourself with a window open with no files in it. Because you effectively purged all the information into the file from the previous room along with some stuff you still needed to remember.
That memory file that said you needed the pillow from the living room to put on the stool in the kitchen so you were more comfortable beating the eggs to make that cake for your sisters birthday party... yeah, it's not there anymore and now you are just a crazy person standing in the middle of the living room with an eggbeater on one hand, an egg in the other and a blank look on your face.
Why was I here?
Why on earth would I walk into the living room right now...
You walk back and sit in that uncomfortable stool but suddenly remember, you should get a pillow from the living room.
"Oh, that's why I went there!" This time you will hopefully reach the pillow...
The human mind needs to do this.
There is way too much information out there and we need to compartmentalize and store just to keep our sanity. Unfortunately, this door effect is one of the bugs that the good lord hasn't updated yet.
There's something to be said about studios, for instance.
Notice how in places where creativity is treasured, open spaces are a big trend. Art studios, creative offices... Even Facebook has all their employees in one big room. Ideas can flow nicely in open spaces with less event boundaries
Here's the thing... we didn't need a study to tell us this. It's one of those universal human experiences.
You can combat the event boundary by repeating your task as you move from one room to another... Or you can just live in one big room.
Five Fun Memory Facts!
1. Learning new things produces physical changes in your brain structure. It's not one big wet slop, scientists can actually see your brain's neurons and blood flow change when you learn something
2. We can remember things that didn’t even happen, a lot of your childhood memories re false recollections your mind made up to make sense of things.
3. You start making memories as young as four months inside the womb.
4. If you forget something and then look it up or remember it again, you are less likely to ever forget it... like a muscle, use it or loose it, even with single memories or fun facts like this one.
5. Memories don't decay, you just loose the ability to retrieve them.