A Notre Dame psychologist, studying why it happens, says doorways are “event erasers”, explaining the phenomenon.
University of Notre Dame
Psychology Professor Gabriel Radvansky says when we go from one room to another to perform a task, memory is erased “…because our thought becomes “compartmentalized."
For the study, published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
, Radvansky asked each college student to perform memory tasks while crossing a room and then while exiting a doorway.
In a series of three experiments, virtual and real, Radvansky
found the college students forgot more after walking through a doorway compared to going the same distance across a room.
For the first study, the students moved from one room to another through a doorway in a virtual experiment, exchanging one object on a table for another on a different table.
The experiment was repeated with the students just moving across a room.
In the second - real-world experiment - the finding was replicated. The students were asked to hide objects in boxes chosen from a table, then walk across the room or go through a doorway. When they went through a doorway, they forgot.
The last experiment was geared toward finding out if it’s the environment or walking through a doorway that destroys our ability to remember.
The students were asked to select an object. They went through several doorways that led back to the room in which they started. Because the same memory problems ensued, Radvansky was able to show environmental influences weren’t affecting memory, suggested in past studies.
The study, according to the research finding, suggests walking through a doorway wipes out memory. The good news is, now we know it’s normal to say “I know I came in here for something”.