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Wait. Why Did I Come In Here?

Study shows the physical structure of a door makes us forget why we went into a room.

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An empty doorway.Nothing makes you feel quite like an exquisite specimen of evolution more than standing in the middle of a room and pondering life’s great question: What did I come in here for?

Well, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re not going senile and you aren't nuts.

And we all have a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame to thank for making us feel a little less crazy.

Professor Gabriel Radvansky studied how well subjects could remember information when walking across a room abd compared that to their ability to recall information when traveling from room to room.

“Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” Prof. Radvansky explained in a statement from the university. “Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.”

In three experiments, researchers had test subjects (all of whom were college students) move through virtual and real environments, and told them to take items off a table in one room and place them on a table in the the next room. Usually they could do it with no problem, but the tests that involved a doorway showed a memory lapse—when going through the doorway, the test subjects were more likely to forgot what to do with the objects in their hands. 

The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology published the findings recently.

In essence, our brain thinks each room deserves its own memories and the physical separation of a doorway acts as a reverse portal to enlightenment. The structure of the door is the reason why we stand in the middle of the kitchen, dumbfoundedly wondering why in the good Lord’s name we went in there to begin with.

It shows that despite years that humans have been domesticated, these doors can have a powerful effect on how well our brains are able to mentally separate rooms as much as the rooms are separated physically.

So, if you’re constantly frustrated about walking into a room and forgetting why you went in there in the first place, get a studio apartment. One room, no doors, problem solved.

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Tags: Latest Studies & Research

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About the Author

Brian Krans is an Assistant Editor and writer at Healthline.com.

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