As a follow-up to my original post on why our brain forgets things, I thought I would cover some recent developments from a research team at the University of Notre Dame. They hypothesized that walking through doorways causes us to forget. It seems that some of our memories are set up to be forgotten as soon as we move on to a new task.

This “doorway effect” was observed in test subjects when playing a video game. They where tasked with walking over to a table to pick up a geometric shape. They were then asked to carry the object with them and to place it on a different table. The object was hidden from their view as they walked to the different table.

Sometimes while walking to the new table they would pass through a doorway, other times not. The researchers would periodically quiz them at certain intervals during the game. Some quizzes would occur right after walking through a doorway. In those instances the subjects were more forgetful and slower in responding with answers than when they were quizzed after walking to a different table within the same room.

The effect did not change if they used different visual displays. It was the same on a flat screen or an old CRT monitor. They even conducted a study in real rooms where participants used shoe boxes to carry objects. The same “doorway effect” occurred. Their memories were not as good after passing through a doorway.