The Doorway Effect

The doorway effect is that temporary memory lapse we experience when we forgot what we came for. Everyone experiences them and they are extremely annoying. Radvansky, Krawietz and Tamplin (2010) investigated this doorway effect and it turns out that doors are to blame.

The researches asked participants to play on a video game where they had to move to a table, pick up an object, put it in their bag (they could no longer see the object when in this state) and swap it for another object on a different table.

The participants either walked through a doorway into another room, in the virtual world, or walked across the room (the same walking distance in both conditions). They were then asked which object was in their bag.

The responses were slower and less accurate in the condition where the participants moved through a doorway. The same effect was found in the real-world setting.

The researchers concluded that this occurrence is an ‘event model’, which means that whatever happened in the old room becomes less relevant as you are in a new environment. It is a natural part of our brain’s memory to give information a shelf life as it simply does not have the capacity to remember everything!

So, next time you’re planning to go get something from another room, make sure you repeat saying what you need (either out loud or in your head) and you should remember.

Click here for the full paper.

Radvansky, G. A., Krawietz, S. A., & Tamplin, A. K. (2011). Walking through doorways causes forgetting: Further explorations. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64(8), 1632-1645.

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