This Is Why You Forget What You’re Doing When You Walk Into a Room, According to Science

It's not because you're a scatter-brained Jane.


It’s a seemingly inexplicable occurrence, kind of like when the clock stops at work before a long weekend (actually, scratch that, there is an explanation for that). You get up from your desk, with a head full of steam and a task to complete. You cross the threshold into your destination room and… you have no idea why you went in there in the first place.

If someone else is in the room when you walk in, they might observe your bewilderment, and you might just remark about losing your marbles. But it’s not actually an issue of losing them, per se, it’s more of an issue of having too many in the first place, according to Mental Floss.

A study published in 2011 analyzed this phenomenon, which is known as the “Doorway Effect.” Researchers gathered 55 college students together for a part-virtual, part-physical experience to simulate the common scenario.

First, they were trained in a computer game which had their avatar traverse a building, with the task of carrying different objects from one room to another. At different times, the participants would be prompted with a photo of an object, and an option to confirm if that object was the one they were carrying or the one they had just put down. There was no inventory screen for the participants to check to confirm what item they were carrying or what they had put down.

In the physical experiment, the concept was similar, but the participants had their view obstructed so that the experience would remain constant and they would be unable to confirm the object in their possession. In each trial, as soon as the participants crossed the door threshold, they forgot what they were holding. If they picked up an object within a room and traveled any distance, they would retain their awareness of the object, so the threshold proved to be the key factor.

The threshold basically overloaded the circuitry of each participant’s brain. When presented with a new environment, the brain shifts and adjusts to take it in and respond, and decides to clear the proverbial cranial cache where the original task was sitting.

How can this be prevented? The researchers did not claim a solution in their research, but something known to clear out your brain’s excess programs can be done right at your desk. That should clear some space, which will let you remember that you went into the break room to heat up queso dip, obviously.

[Source: Mental Floss

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