Friday, August 31, 2012

Brains and Doorways

I'm standing in the hallway upstairs, stopped in my tracks. What is it I came up here for? I'm asking myself. I have no idea. I try really hard to remember but it's no use. My mind is blanker than blank.

I've been doing this my whole life, so I know it's not age-related. When I was a child, my mother would send me to another part of the house to get something for her. It seems like seven times out of ten I'd return empty handed.

Now I know why. And it fascinates me.

Apparently I'm not the only one who experiences this. Reader's Digest recently published a little blurb about this phenomenon. Someone at the University of Notre Dame has actually studied it. It turns out that whenever we walk through a doorway, our brains set off something called an event boundary. An event boundary serves as a divider between our sets of memories. So all of a sudden, as we pass through a doorway, the thoughts we were having in the kitchen are stored and a brand new empty page sits there all ready to record our new memories for our new location in the upstairs hall.

It's the doorways! Who knew?

And this makes sense to me. I came to learn during my life that if I just back up - go back to where I was when I had the original thought - I'd remember what it was. In other words, pass back through the doorway...

Since I read about this in the Reader's Digest, I've really noticed it happening a lot. And sure enough, there's always a doorway involved. I have found that if I concentrate really hard, I can cheat the system. Sometimes now I even repeat aloud what it is I'm planning to do as I proceed through the doorway. It helps.

Kent and I have a small linen closet in our bathroom. The other day I was standing in the bathroom. I had the thought to get a clean hand towel out of the linen closet. I turned and looked through the doorway into the closet and wham! The thought was gone. All I did was look through the doorway. I turned around and bing! It was back. Clean hand towel.

My whole life I've been under the impression that I'm forgetful. Or maybe a little stupid. Nope. I choose to think of it this way: if this happens to me even when I simply look through a doorway, I must just have a highly organized brain.  


  1. This happens to me too! It's bad! My husband thinks its crazy that in 2 seconds I can forget what I was going to get. I retrace my steps all the time to remember then I have to repeat what I'm going to do in my head over and over so I don't forget. I'm glad to know that it is the doorways. Crazy!

  2. It's a relief to know why, isn't it? And it doesn't seem to happen much to Kent, either. Maybe women really do have better organized brains!

  3. This makes me feel so much better about myself, ha!