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... Because it's All in Your Mind!


Memory Spring Monthly

Why Do We Walk into Rooms and Forget?

 Head Scratcher
“What did I come into this room for?  What was I going to do?” 
These are questions we ask ourselves every day.  Almost every time we’re working on something in one room and then walk into a new one we forget why we came into that room.  Of course then we beat ourselves up and/or we freak out and begin worrying that we’re on our way to Alzheimer’s land.  Well, it’s time to stop worrying.  Recent research shows that it’s a common occurrence and that our brain struggles with changes of scenery. It’s called the “doorway effect.”
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame found that when we change our scenery (rooms) our brain forgets things. The researchers tested people in real environments and virtual environments (video games).  It didn’t matter what environment (virtual or real), when people switched rooms they tended to forget many of the things that they had with them and why they were in the new room. 
Researchers theorize that our brain and memory ties itself to the world around it, even things in a room (desks, pictures, windows, chairs, etc.).  When that landscape changes, such as going into a new room, the brain is tripped. Research leader, Gabriel Radvansky, Ph.D, states that like a chapter marker, doorways end old episodes and begin new ones, as far as your brain is concerned. This makes it difficult to retrieve older memories because they’ve already been filed away. 
Researchers then changed the experiment. They decided to send the people back into the original room to see if they would recall the original information.  They were basing their approach on the Encoding Specificity Principle which states that we will do a much better job of recalling information when presented with items that were in the room at the same time we were storing that information in our brain.  Did it work? No! People still struggled with recalling what they had with them and why they entered another room.
What’s the solution? Radvansky suggests physically carrying a reminder of what your intent is: “For example, if you want to go from the living room to the kitchen to get a snack, you may forget why you went to the kitchen when you get there because this is a new event, and you may have been distracted. But, it would be easier to remember if you walked into the kitchen with something to remind yourself of what you wanted, such as a bowl.” In addition, you can use the following steps to help jog your memory 
The next time you walk into a room and you forget why you're there don't beat yourself up. Just chalk it up to that darn doorway effect.  You'll be a lot happier.