The doorway effect


This cartoon that appeared this past week illustrates a phenomenon that we have likely all experienced at some point and that is called the ‘doorway effect’. I wrote about it five years ago, where I pointed to research suggesting that it is due to our short term memories being at least partially cleared when we go from one environment to another, such as by walking through a door.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    From “The Meaning of Liff”, by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, 1983:

    “Woking (ptcpl. vb.): Standing in the kitchen wondering what you came in here for.”

    Other entries include:
    “Abilene (adj): Descriptive of the pleasing coolness on the reverse side of the pillow.”
    “Kelling (ptcpl. vb.) The act of looking for something all over again in all the places you’ve already looked.”
    “Ripon (vb) (Of literary critics [and repliers to blog posts…]) To include all the best jokes from the book in the review to make it look as if the critic thought of them.”

  2. flexilis says

    A work colleague approached me and asked, “Have you ever given any thought to the Hereafter?” Uh-oh, I thought, I’m about to get a religious pitch.

    He continued, “I just walked in to your office and I can’t remember what I’m here after.”

  3. Mark Dowd says

    Bad enough when it just happens once. Then you walk out, remember, walk back in and…shit what was I here for?

  4. xohjoh2n says

    I find it happens most often when I’m *really* not paying attention to my surroundings and walk end-into the door.

  5. kimpatsu2025 says

    I can do one better. Recently, I wanted to get some coffee midmorning, so I walked out of the office into the kitchen, took my coffee mug down from the shelf and, with the empty mug in my hand, walked straight past the coffee pot, out of the kitchen, and back into my office.

  6. John Morales says

    The other day, I was going to have a beer after walking the dog in the sunshine, and thus went to get a replacement beer from the cupboard with which to replace the coldie in the fridge.

    As I walked into the kitchen with my beer, I happened to interact with my wife, and then I thoughtlessly opened the beer I had in my hand. I had entirely forgotten to change it for the coldie!

    That sort of thing is becoming ever more common for me (and, anecdotally, from my peer cohort).

    (My supposition is that, as we age, we become more prone to doing things on “autopilot”)

  7. KG says

    My supposition is that, as we age, we become more prone to doing things on “autopilot” -- John Morales@8

    Yes! We have so many vitally important things to think about that we have to delegate the less important to the autopilot.

  8. John Morales says

    Nah, not me. I tend to do the opposite of mindfulness. Paying attention costs effort.

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