We have all done it. We get up from a chair in the living room to retrieve something in the kitchen, study, or bedroom (equal opportunity rooms). But after the first few steps walking through the doorway into the other room we, well…we have forgotten what we came into the room to get. It is hard to score if that process is more frustrating, embarrassing, or just plain scary. We shutter that it is another sign of our aging process. Is it the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease? Pictures of our departed grandparents or elderly parents form in our mind. Oh no, what’s happening to me?

This kind of behavior is a sure sign of trouble, right? WRONG! In a study out of the University of Notre Dame, Gabriel Radvansky (2016) and his colleagues studied the differences between younger adults (average age 19.7 years) and older adults (average age 73.9 years) and found that, believe it or not walking through doorways can cause forgetting.

In what Radvansky first (2014) called the Event Horizon Model, he found three principles at work:

  1. When an event boundary is encountered we segment our main activity into sub-activities. In other words, we divide our travel into separate events depending on the room we enter.
  2. Information that is associated with the current event (i.e., the new room) will be more accessible in our memory.
  3. When we have equally important items on our mind, they compete with one another thus producing interference and lowering our performance…thus forgetting why we even came into the blasted room in the first place!

By the way, both the younger and older groups did not differ in the study. So while there are age-related differences in memory, forgetting as we walk through a doorway is not one of them.

Since it is good to laugh at ourselves, what is your funniest “walking through the door” experience?

Leave a Reply

No comments yet. Be the first to leave a comment.