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Archive for February 2015

There’s More to the Remembering Than Just What You Paid Attention To

Scientific American reported in December 2011 of research on the doorway effect, which is forgetting what you were going to do as soon as you entered a different room in your abode. Gabriel A. Radvanskya, Sabine A. Krawietza & Andrea K. Tamplina published a paper showing in experiments that people recalled less walking through a doorway than walking the same distance without a doorway.

From the Scientific American report:

Is it walking through the doorway that causes the forgetting, or is it that remembering is easier in the room in which you originally took in the information? Psychologists have known for a while that memory works best when the context during testing matches the context during learning; this is an example of what is called the encoding specificity principle.

Except that walking back to the room in which you thought of what you wanted to do doesn’t improve the chances of remembering what you wanted to do.

The doorway effect suggests that there’s more to the remembering than just what you paid attention to, when it happened, and how hard you tried. Instead, some forms of memory seem to be optimized to keep information ready-to-hand until its shelf life expires, and then purge that information in favor of new stuff.

No real solutions to the problem are offered in the article. Write down a list of what you need to do in the next room? The Scientific American reporters offer a theory that other events trigger purging of short-term memory, and these events probably won’t give you enough time to jot down the thing you needed to do just now.

Written by Richard

February 9, 2015 at 5:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized