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Jun 29, 2013

Bad Memory? It's the doors fault!

Maybe you have seen this information before. If you have, go away or forget you were here. Just don't let the virtual door hit you on the bottom. According to some very big research, that will cause forgetfulness. I'm just saying! :)

In a study called Walking through doorways causes forgetting: Situation models and experienced space by GABRIEL A. RADVANSKY University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana and DAVID E. COPELAND University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi investigated how the mind retrieves information as a person enters and leaves rooms virtually. The opening paragraph for the research paper went like this:

We investigated the ability of people to retrieve information about objects as they moved through rooms in a virtual space. People were probed with object names that were either associated with the person (i.e., carried) or dissociated from the person (i.e., just set down). Also, people either did or did not shift spatial regions (i.e., go to a new room). Information about objects was less accessible when the objects were dissociated from the person. Furthermore, information about an object was also less available when there was a spatial shift. However, the spatial shift had a larger effect on memory for the currently associated object.(2010)
In other words, you don't recall things you see in a room (even virtually) unless you hold it in your hand. AND when you leave the room (even virtually) the door to the previous room closes and you are more apt to forget what you saw when you leave the room (spatial shift).

This accounts for the bizarre fact that we will walk from one room to the next on a quest and, once we cross the threshold, cannot for the life of us remember what we are doing in the next room. I personally have gone into the bedroom to find an object over and over only to turn around wondering what I was doing there. In my case, the door actually hits me on the bottom! Scientific American described the phenomena like this:
You're sitting at your desk in your office at home. Digging for something under a stack of papers, you find a dirty coffee mug that’s been there so long it’s eligible for carbon dating.  Better wash it. You pick up the mug, walk out the door of your office, and head toward the kitchen.  By the time you get to the kitchen, though, you've forgotten why you stood up in the first place, and you wander back to your office, feeling a little confused—until you look down and see the cup.
It is reassuring to know this because, as we age, it is a temptation to blame aging or some horrible disease. Nothing is wrong and it is the door's fault. Don't you just love research. Really!

Have a wonderful day.

b+

Resource:
Walking through doorways causes forgetting...., GABRIEL A. RADVANSKY University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana and DAVID E. COPELAND University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Scientific American,  Why walking through a doorway makes you forget.,

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