Forgetting Why You Came into a Room

August 4, 2020 at 7:30 am 3 comments

Walking through doors causes your brain to reset

Have you ever walked into a room for something, only to forget exactly what that was? You’re not alone—it happens to everyone and psychologists call it the “doorway effect”. Human memories are episodic, as opposed to linear, which means they’re broken into separate “episodes”. Walking through a doorway creates a new episode and it becomes difficult to remember the previous one. In a way, walking through a doorway resets the brain.

The experiments

In a series of famous experiments at the University of Notre Dame, researchers tested the doorway effect using virtual rooms.

Participants were instructed to pick up objects from tables and then deposit them on tables in the next room. They then had to recall the objects. This was repeated several times. Participants’ memories were poorer whenever they had to enter a new room, as opposed to when they simply had to walk across a room to a new table. An in-person study was later devised, utilizing the same rules, and the results were the same—crossing into a new room caused memory loss. Scientists believe that part of this is due to something called the “location updating effect”—a phenomenon where the brain partially resets to take in a new area. Interestingly, the same thing happens when you’re reading a book and turn the page; it becomes easier to forget what you just read.

Is there a cure for the doorway effect? Unfortunately, scientists have yet to find one. The good news is that forgetting why you’ve entered a room is completely normal and not a sign of actual memory loss.

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Image: Patrick Gillespie (CC 2.0)

Sources: NIH, NIH, Iowa State University


Entry filed under: Around The House, Demystified. Tags: , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Charyl Upton  |  August 4, 2020 at 9:06 am


  • 2. Benjamin Nelson  |  August 5, 2020 at 9:03 am

    Wow, I completely forgot about this blog. It’s nice to see a good entry as well.

  • 3. sc pearson  |  June 6, 2022 at 8:33 am

    When this happens try walking slowly back to where you started and and think back to your previous thoughts. This usually brings it back for me.


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