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Doorways are bad for memory

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Doorways are bad for memory

Have you ever forgotten why you entered a room? According to psychologists, this may be related to the doorways you passed through on your way. They impede your memory.

Did you ever leave one room in your house to enter another and then forget why you were there? Well, apparently we’re not the only ones. A group of psychologists at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana have been wondering the same thing, and they think that doors have a lot to do with this kind of forgetfulness.

The researchers, headed by Gabriel Radvansky, a professor of psychology, did a number of experiments, both in virtual and real world situations, to determine if a person’s memory is affected by moving from one room to another. They called this the “location-updating effect.”

What they decided was that exiting a door served as an “event boundary” in the mind. Crossing the threshold of a doorway was like ending an old chapter and starting a new one, separating episodes of activity. This makes it challenging to recall experiences or decisions made in the room that was left because the memory was stored away.

“The architecture of the world can actually impede your memory,” says Radvansky. “The brain needs to be able to shift gears to what’s relevant now, and not focus on what’s irrelevant. Event boundaries help provide that structure.”

Through several experiments, researchers performed memory tests to determine if participants remembered an object in a room whether they’d exited a doorway afterward or just crossed the room. They found that memories were diminished after walking through a doorway compared with travelling the same distance in the same room.

Radvansky offered some advice—tongue in cheek, of course: “Doorways are bad. Avoid them at all costs.”

Next time you find yourself in your kitchen wondering why you’re there, you can blame the door—not your advancing age. Instead of driving yourself crazy trying to avoid doorways, check out these easy tips that will help keep your memory sharp.

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