Ever went into a room and forgot why you came in the first place? Or opened the fridge door and then suddenly forgot what exactly are you looking for? This is called The Doorway Effect.
Now, this must have happened to you a lot of times. You go upstairs to your bedroom and suddenly forget what you came for. Or you open the refrigerator and suddenly forget why did you open it in the first place. You’re not alone in this as this happens to almost all of us.
And no, it doesn’t mean that we are losing our minds. This phenomenon is called as, in the psychology community, The Doorway Effect.
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How Our Brain Works
In order to understand why such things happen, we need to first understand how our brain works on a day to ta day basis. As we go about our routine our attention shifts between various levels – from plans to ambitions to strategies and how to actually go about doing them.
Now, when things are going well, usually in familiar situations, we tend to keep our attention on what we want and how we do these things fail to get our attention. For example, when your driving you don’t pay attention to how you are driving but rather your attention must be on navigating the traffic.
But when things are less routine, we have to constantly shift our attention to details of the new thing that we are doing. Our mind then has to shift attention on a different scale. The way how we move our attention in a hierarchy of action is what makes possible for us to carry out complex behaviors. These actions lead up to the formation of coherent plans over multiple moments, over multiple places and requiring multiple actions.
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The Doorway Effect
This is where the Doorway Effect comes in when our attention moves between these levels. It shows how we rely on our memories of the particular environment we are in. Imagine going upstairs to get keys and you forget what you came for. Psychologists argue that what happens is that the “plan” (here keys) has been forgotten in the middle of implementation of a bigger plan. For example, going to the bedroom. Or it could be part of a bigger plan like going outside for a party.
The argument here is that as there are different scales and each requires attention at the certain point of the day. It is a complicated hierarchy of sifting through these scales. The keys are forgotten as we sift through these scales. This shows how shifting from one to another scale shifts our focus to another level.
Our memories are always embedded in a complex web of associations. Which is why whenever we revisit our childhood it brings back a lot of memories. The Doorway effect occurs whenever we change our mental and physical environments, moving to a different room and we end up thinking about different things.
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The Complex Human Mind
Psychologists believe that the doorway effect is just another fascinating facet of the human mind. It tells us about how our brain works and what are the flaws in it. But even in studying such flaws one gets to understand the implicit complexity that is our human brain.
So, the next time you forget your keys. Just think about the bigger picture at hand and give your brain a break! Till then cheers and keep exploring yourself with Brainpundits!