We use a doorway as a way of separating one 'chapter' in our life from the next
It’s the doorway that’s the problem, say psychologists from Notre Dame University in Indiana. According to the results of three related experiments, the mind regards a doorway as what the psychologists call an ‘event border’. By this they mean that we use a doorway as a way of separating one completed ‘chapter’ in our life from the next. As we pass through the doorway, we mentally file away the memory from the room we’re leaving so as to prepare to create and store new memories in the second room.
The experiments involved asking participants to move through 55 virtual rooms, then the same number of actual rooms, ‘carrying’ objects between the rooms. They were then asked what they were carrying as they moved through the doorways; in the real rooms the objects were hidden in boxes, in the virtual ones, they simply ‘disappeared' after being picked up.
The results showed that people’s memory of the objects they’d picked up deteriorated as they went through the door. Professor Gabriel Radvansky who led the study said: “The brain needs to be able to shift gears to what’s relevant now, and not focus on what’s irrelevant. Event boundaries help to provide that structure.”