The doorway effect

Image thanks to Science Alert

I read somewhere about the doorway effect. I can’t remember where but then I wouldn’t be able to. 

Apparently walking over the threshold into another room can lead you to forget why you went there in the first place. So it happened to me this morning as I went into my bedroom to get a hanky, only to walk into the ensuite and stand there trying to work out what it was that I was doing. Only by concentrating really hard, something I am not that good at, did it come back to me.

Sometimes I find I have to go back to where I started for my memory to restore itself.

According to the scientists who recognised this phenomena, it is due to the amount of memory capacity we have. We only have so much processing power at any one time, a bit like a fixed amount of RAM. When going into a new room your senses are filled with so much new information that has to be processed that your brain dumps anything that is not that important, like fetching a hanky.

After a while your memory catches up and normal service is restored.

If this is true, and it seems plausible to me, then it must be true in other circumstances. When going into a meeting for instance it makes sense to take notes just in case your mind goes wandering. When going shopping then taking a list stops you forgetting what it was that you came in for.

Perhaps more interestingly it suggests that thresholds can be created, borders between low information density and high information density. Moving from one area to another could lead you to be overwhelmed and momentarily lose the ability to manage what is in your mind. This could be a great way to sow confusion.

Instead, information needs to be fed in slowly, at a pace that people can accommodate but which does not make them too bored. Too much information is too much for our minds and short packets of detail seem to be far easier to absorb. 

Perhaps that is why three word slogans are more effective than long missives.

Think – enter – remember

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