Human Journey

Walk Through a Door and Throw Memories out the Window

Photo by Jodi Cobb

 

Forgot to turn off the stove? Can’t figure out why you have that piece of string tied to your finger? Don’t blame yourself; blame the door you just walked through.

According to Notre Dame Psychology Professor Gabriel Radvansky, the simple act of walking through a doorway makes people forgetful. Radvansky conducted numerous experiments in which subjects’ memories were tested after crossing a room or exiting through a doorway. In all cases, the research subjects forgot more after walking through a doorway than they did walking the same distance across an open room. The professor notes, “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away. Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.”

Keep this in mind the next time you struggle to remember your wedding anniversary. On second thought, maybe you should just write it down.

For all the latest science news, check out National Geographic Library’s twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.

Since 2005, Michael has been a librarian at National Geographic.

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