Tuesday, 8 November 2011
Forgetful? Doors May Have Something To Do With It
For years now I've had the occasional - too occasional these days - memory lapse when arriving in a room. What was I there for? One friend said I shouldn't worry until the question I asked was "Where am I?" but I do. It's frustrating returning to the room where the idea was formed, in the hope that the thought process rewinds.
A new study shows that the simple act of walking through a doorway creates a new memory episode, making it more difficult to recall information pertaining to an experience in the room that's just been left.
The key finding was that memory performance was poorer after travelling through an open doorway compared with covering the same distance within the same room. "Walking through doorways serves as an event boundary, thereby initiating the updating of one's event model [ie the creation of a new episode in memory]" the researchers found.
Another interpretation of the findings was that they have nothing to do with the boundary effect of a doorway but more to do with the memory enhancing effect of context (the basic idea being that we find it easier to recall memories in the context in which we first stored them).
Another test earlier this year examined how the brain organises the continuity of lived experience into a filing system of discrete episodes. Episodic memory is the ability to recall past experiences and is distinct from semantic memory, which is our factual general knowledge.
The research may have made the psychologists more informed but offers little advice to suffers. Maybe if I left doors open my episodic memory would improve. Will give that a go this week.