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Thinking about doors makes us forget ... literally

Thinking about doors makes us forget ... literally

March 25, 2023

Many times it happens that, when going from one place to another, we forget what we were going to do .

It is frequent that this happens when we draw routes to which we are already accustomed: going to work, to school, etc. We realize, then, that we have subconsciously taken the route to our office when we really want to go visit a friend, just because both routes share the initial stretch and we are more accustomed to going to work than to visit the apartment. partner.

Think about doors

This is explained because, having gone through the same site so many times, our brain codes this route as the default path, it gives the "autopilot" button and, while our feet take us safely down the wrong path, we can devote ourselves to thinking about other, more interesting things. However, at other times we totally forgot what we were going to do when we are in our own house , a site that we frequent so much that there is no "default route".


In these cases, the only thing that remains in our consciousness is a sense of having had a very clear objective seconds ago, a purpose that no longer exists except as an inexplicable disorientation. In addition, as a result of this daze it is hard for us to mentally recapitulate the actions we have taken just before finding ourselves where we are and, perhaps because of that, we do not realize that the last thing we have done before our destiny disappeared from our mind is ... through a door.

Sequences cut

Surprisingly, the key to these little everyday mysteries could be right there, at the doors . There are indications that passing through one influences our memories unconsciously and that, in reality, the simple act of imagining that we pass through a door can cause these memory blots (Radvansky et al, 2011) (Lawrence & Peterson, 2014) . That is thinking about doors can make it easier for us to forget the common thread of what we were doing . The explanation is problematic, but it could be the following: the doors act as divisors of our memories.


Perhaps because of performance, our brain starts our flow of experiences in smaller portions. In that sense, the mental representation of a door would act as a trigger for one of these divisions exerted on our mind, unconsciously cutting the "narration" of the facts that we are living We can think of these fragments as the cinematographic shots that divide any film. In a fortuitous way, important aspects when developing a plan of action can be lost in this process of "cutting" and not pass to the next fragment: that is why we often get up from the sofa and end up paralyzed by uncertainty a few meters away.

Does it only happen when thinking about doors?

However, by this same logic there are other elements that can have the same effect on us. For example, it has been observed how phrases that introduce a temporary discontinuity produce the same effect . Thus, when we read something similar to "a week later ...", our capacity to associate memories is lower for those memories that are on either side of that temporal division if we compare them with memories that are in a single fragment (Ezzyat et al, 2010).


It is also for this division mechanism so it is so easy to have the need to reread the last lines after realizing that the narration we are reading has taken a leap in time or space (and, therefore, is different from the last one we remember ). The fault is not the book, nor does it have to be because what we read lacks interest. The one responsible for these things happening is the memory assembly system that operates in our brain.

The latter is interesting because it highlights the symbolic nature of this process. It is not that we are biologically predisposed to forget when thinking about doors, it is that this is a side effect of the symbolic charge of these artifacts . This means that practically any other perceptual phenomenon can produce in us the same effect if subconsciously we assign it a meaning similar to that which the doors usually have. Do you hear that? They are the psychoanalysts, who are already sharpening their pencils.


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