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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the what-is-this-blank-text-field-for dept.

Science 147

PerlJedi writes "Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have conducted a very simple study, with some surprising (or at least amusing) results about how our short term memory works. Quoting: 'Sometimes, to get to the next object the participant simply walked across the room. Other times, they had to walk the same distance, but through a door into a new room. From time to time, the researchers gave them a pop quiz, asking which object was currently in their backpack. The quiz was timed so that when they walked through a doorway, they were tested right afterwards. As the title said, walking through doorways caused forgetting: Their responses were both slower and less accurate when they'd walked through a doorway into a new room than when they'd walked the same distance within the same room.'"

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Common Knowledge (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38362524)

This is why memory heuristics work by combining location with data

Re:Common Knowledge (5, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363202)

So those WERE the droids I was looking for?

Re:Common Knowledge (5, Interesting)

pfignaux (39568) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364906)

Frank Lloyd Wright exploited this phenomenon in his architecture. If you're familiar with his "compression and release", you're probably also familiar with how dumbstruck a person can get walking into one of his buildings. http://goo.gl/H6ygK [goo.gl]

Re:Common Knowledge (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364530)

It doesn't matter where you are. The phenomenon is that when you move through a doorway that you have some subconscious trigger to forget (you are somewhere else, no need to remember anymore), not that being where you learned something makes you more likely to remember.

Open the Door Jeopardy (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362530)

Alex Trebek: Good evening and welcome to another edition of "Open the Door Jeopardy" where contestants must step through a door after ringing in and answer because answering a 'clue' in the form of a question just isn't confusing enough. Ken Jennings, as our returning champion you start.
Ken Jennings: I'll start with the category 'I Confess!' for $400, Alex.
Alex Trebek: Very good ... 'His death and subsequent disagreement of heir resulted in the Battle of Hastings.'
*Ken Jennings rings in, opens the door and steps through it*
Ken Jennings: Um ... uh ... um ... I knew it a second ago.
Alex Trebek: Ooooh, I'm sorry, time is up. Anyone else?
*the heavy treads of IBM's Watson machine crush the door as it rolls in*
Watson: Who was Edward the Confessor?

Re:Open the Door Jeopardy (1, Informative)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362570)

Turd Ferguson.

Re:Open the Door Jeopardy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38362692)

Turd Ferguson.

Buck Futter.

Re:Open the Door Jeopardy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38362850)

General Buck Turgidson?

Re:Open the Door Jeopardy (1)

joeyadams (1724334) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362934)

Alex Trebek: Very good ... 'His death and subsequent disagreement of heir resulted in the Battle of Hastings.' *Ken Jennings rings in, opens the door and steps through it*
Ken Jennings: Um ... uh ... um ... I knew it a second ago.

Short-term memory? It's more like he'd forget the question... err, answer.

Re:Open the Door Jeopardy (1)

greghodg (1453715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363746)

I can't remember how it ends, but your mothers a whore!

Different conclusion. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38362552)

Doesn't seem like it's doorways or line of sight, but changing rooms is like turning a new page in ones mind. New room, new collection of objects, new page of memory to work with.

That's how I feel it works in my own mind in any case.

Re:Different conclusion. (4, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362892)

Doesn't seem like it's doorways or line of sight, but changing rooms is like turning a new page in ones mind. New room, new collection of objects, new page of memory to work with.

That's how I feel it works in my own mind in any case.

Hundreds of processes happen, going from one room to another. Identifying the door is a good start (walls are so unyielding) looking for the knob, using hand-eye coordination to put hand on doorknob, turn, sense door opens or does not, pulling, pushing, how far is door open, don't hit it going through, see objects in new room, processes information (I didn't walk out into space and plummet like Wile E. Coyote, etc.) then resume walking, assuming you know what you came in for.

Probably at some point they'll use this as a screen for Alzheimers Disease (or early onset dementia.)

Re:Different conclusion. (4, Insightful)

Quirkz (1206400) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363634)

I'd argue that taking stock of the new room is the biggest of those distractors. There's a lot involved when you have to take stock of "new" territory, and it'd be pretty easy for that to distract you. Even if you're familiar with the room, it takes a moment to verify things are as you left them. We're not all that far removed from needing to figure out if there's something waiting to eat us around every corner.

Re:Different conclusion. (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365246)

Besides, I feel quite confident that when in a building, my brain clearly believes all floors are flat and ergo no processing to determine such. My proof is the number of small steps I've kicked and lumps I've tripped over. Not quite so instantaneously my brain first questions how this floor cannot be flat, I then become pissed off that I am no longer moving as I had intended and that my foot hurts, then my brain justifies it (accurately or not), and only then am I able to instinctively take action and protect myself from the fall. After it has happened a few times I move through those steps much more quickly and even had a room where upon entrance my brain prepared me for falling. That was about the time I discovered yoga and generally don't have such situational awareness issues anymore.

Re:Different conclusion. (1)

Rary (566291) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365328)

Hundreds of processes happen, going from one room to another. Identifying the door is a good start (walls are so unyielding) looking for the knob, using hand-eye coordination to put hand on doorknob, turn, sense door opens or does not, pulling, pushing, how far is door open, don't hit it going through...

In the experiment, the doors were opened for the subject. Additional doors that were not part of their planned path were kept closed, so they hardly had to think about where to go next, just follow the automatically opening doors. Also, the first part of the experiment was conducted entirely using a first-person video game, so the only actions required by the subject were most likely holding down the "W" key while moving the mouse left and right.

Re:Different conclusion. (4, Funny)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363574)

Dammit, now I forgot what I came to this website for.

Re:Different conclusion. (3, Informative)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363738)

Yes, it's pretty obvious really. It's a context switch [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Different conclusion. (2)

buswolley (591500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365022)

Thank you. I signed in just to say this very same thing, and boom! there you are. Context is important in even short-term memory. The simplest explanation of course is that the presence of the original context provides a rich set of retrieval cues.

Re:Different conclusion. (4, Interesting)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363882)

Context is king in memory. It both helps and hinders. Memories are linked to the place and time where you first learned them. The brain is like a 3 dimensional chording keyboard combined with a hologram combined with photographic film. If you've only seen something once, you'll remember the context. As you see that thing more and more, the context/background gets washed out and all that remains is the pattern of the image/concept. So if you are told to remember the words "fish, piano, disestablishmentarianism, Arizona, and tooth", you are going to tie that pattern to the context you are in. Change the context and it becomes harder to remember.

I wonder if it's cheating to "play back" your conversation with the person who gave you the list?

Re:Different conclusion. (3, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365036)

It should probably also be noted that context is very important in data compression, and it doesnt seem unreasonable that brains have evolved to store information efficiently using some of the strategies that we have found successful in compsci.

Or maybe (0)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362556)

There is so much competition for our attention such as TV, iPods, cellphones, computers that our short term memory capacity has collapsed to the duration of the average TV commercial scene, which is somewhere below 2 seconds.

In other words 200 years ago this forgetfulness would not have been an issue.

Re:Or maybe (2)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362584)

Without data to back that claim up you have a nice little anecdote to be added to the pile.

Re:Or maybe (0)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362684)

Google.

Re:Or maybe (2)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362944)

Your one word response doesn't provide any data. Please provide links to this data you found with google.

Re:Or maybe (4, Funny)

treeves (963993) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363222)

He would but he just walked through the door from the bathroom and has forgotten them.

Re:Or maybe (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362666)

Short term memory is based on neurophysiology of the brain. That's not going to change that much over just a couple decades. Now, the amount of stress that we feel as a result of constantly paging between things would elicit that sort of response. And it's been studied, not conclusively yet, but multitasking is bad.

Re:Or maybe (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363924)

Paying attention is as much skill as neurophysiology. If you don't (have to) force yourself to pay attention, then that skill atrophies.

Re:Or maybe (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365268)

Some would argue that skills are directly relatable to neurophysiology.

Re:Or maybe (2)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363398)

tl;dr

Re:Or maybe (3, Funny)

Xtravar (725372) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364130)

Our ancestors had about the same memory - they would open the door, get on the floor, and everybody walked the dinosaur. [youtube.com]

Re:Or maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38365392)

You win.

It's quantum-mechanical (4, Funny)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362562)

Obviously the subjects' brainwaves diffracted when they walked through the door...

Re:It's quantum-mechanical (3, Insightful)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362600)

don't you need two doors for that ?

Re:It's quantum-mechanical (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362682)

Some rooms have 2 doors on the same side of the wall.

Re:It's quantum-mechanical (4, Informative)

ClickOnThis (137803) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362840)

don't you need two doors for that ?

No. [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's quantum-mechanical (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363324)

Yay, I learned something today.
If the room have a long door of infinitesimal width it can work to !

Life Imitates Art, or vice versa? (5, Interesting)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362604)

So many famous quotes talk about the gravity of "walking through that door", about the hope of "opening a new door" or "closing a door...opening a window" that I wonder how much people associate doors metaphorically with permission to forget and ignore everything on the other side?

Of course, ancient Greeks used architecture, specifically an image of a large house, to remember things: a common technique to plan and memorize a speech was to lay it out visually in your head, each room representing a major topic and each door perhaps representing a transition or gravid point. So architecture as memory cuts both ways.

Re:Life Imitates Art, or vice versa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38362942)

"A door opened, I went through it!"

Re:Life Imitates Art, or vice versa? (4, Funny)

burleywinz (1247404) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363106)

I did not know this and will try this technique the next time I have to give a speech. Are you supposed to start in the basement or the attic? Probably doesn't matter. I just hope I don't fall down the stairs.

Re:Life Imitates Art, or vice versa? (2)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363480)

"Are you supposed to start in the basement or the attic?"

This is Slashdot--I think you know the answer to that question.

Re:Life Imitates Art, or vice versa? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363806)

Aside from the basement jokes, I'm pretty sure the ancient Greeks generally built single story structures. You could make it multilevel if you want to compartmentalize the various bits, or even split-level or bi-level if you have arguments that are slightly off-tangent.

Another useful trick is to attach different bits of the speech to different objects in the room you're planning to present the speech in... with the downside that the janitorial staff can easily misplace an entire paragraph, or get your arguments all out of order between memorization and presentation.

Simonides & mememory (greeks)Re:Life Imitates (2)

Fubari (196373) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364182)

Not exclusively an architecture thing. This Simonides guy [mnemotechnics.org] came up with a systematic way of associating arbitrary facts with spatial memory.

Excerpt: Legend says that Simonides of Ceos was the inventor of the method of loci where large amounts of data can be remembered in order by placing images that represent the data into mental locations or journeys.

The story goes there was a building collapse at a dinner party, killing everyone but Simonides (who had stepped out to receive a messenger). Anyway, the bodies were unidentifiably crushed but Simonides was able to identify the victims based on where they had been sitting.
Interesting in that it uses spatial memory, something humans are pretty good at, to associate arbitrary facts. (This stuff was cutting edge data management until the renaissance.)

Context-switching matters (5, Insightful)

Caerdwyn (829058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362614)

Switching contexts is computationally expensive for our brains, and is a lossy procedure. Any techie can tell you that constant interruptions cause bad code because you lose context and the "gestalt" of what you are doing.

It's one of the reasons why I've always insisted upon having at least one guaranteed-uninterrupted (nothing short of "the building's on fire... again") two-hour block of time per day in any tech job I have. If I don't have that, don't complain to me that I write bad code, but DO expect me to gripe about it in my status and my supervisor evaluation.

#!/usr/bin/env python
import os, sys, time, re, LeaveMeTheFuckAlone

Re:Context-switching matters (4, Interesting)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362762)

Switching contexts is computationally expensive for our brains, and is a lossy procedure. Any techie can tell you that constant interruptions cause bad code because you lose context and the "gestalt" of what you are doing.

While that is true, it does nothing to diminish the weirdness of this result. Walking from one place to another doesn't seem like much of a "change of context." Especially when your present location has utterly nothing to do with what you're trying to remember.

Re:Context-switching matters (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362890)

Weirdness, I don't get it. Walking through a doorway involves a lot of quick sensory work eating away at caches and main memory. These instinctual kernel processes take precedent to user-land thought processes. An obvious survival technique.

Re:Context-switching matters (1)

masternerdguy (2468142) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363018)

But what if the brain uses hypervisors?

Re:Context-switching matters (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363028)

Really? You think walking through a door is a mentally taxing procedure?

Re:Context-switching matters (3, Insightful)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363116)

Oh hell yeah. Is the door pull or push? Can I lift the handle, or do I have to push it down?

And don't even get me started on automatic doors. You need differential calculus to walk through them properly: is the door going to be wide enough open for me to get through it at my present speed, given a low threshold of detection, or am I going to pull a Bieber and smash my face into it?

Re:Context-switching matters (5, Informative)

idontgno (624372) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363550)

Apparently (parsing TFA's explanation), yeah, it is.

When you walk into a new scene, your brain performs a series of high-priority tasks to update your current situational map. It would be counter to your survival success to ignore new sensory and context information presented by rounding a corner or entering a cave, especially if that sensory information included such things a predators. Even if what you were pondering as you entered the new scene was, for instance, a very innovative way to knap and flake a stone axe that would really impress the Cro-Magnon chicks. Your pre-historic geek-trance will kill you if you wander all unawares into a cave bear den.

As a high-priority background task, this situational integration would preempt cognitive resources, such as forcing a cache dump of short-term memory to populate with new page tables, as it were.

Well, that's my interpretation. Sorry it's not a car analogy or a pizza analogy.

Re:Context-switching matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363052)

Sure it does, when you enter a room, you need a little time to process the new environment, shapes, colours, sounds, spacial locations etc, which is much more important than remembering what you have strapped to your back. It's a simple survival instinct that forces you to prioritize things this way. There are some funny bits in movies where the opposite happens, and some guy gets up in his pj's with a mug to get some coffee while people are shooting at each other around him.

Re:Context-switching matters (2)

bipbop (1144919) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363086)

I can't argue, but I do notice I think very differently in different physical spaces. I find I can solve coding architecture tasks better if I go for a walk outdoors, for example. Sitting in front of my computer seems to be better for detail-oriented work. So while I don't really understand how the brain works, and I wouldn't have guessed the results if you'd asked me beforehand, they do make intuitive sense to me. Changing spaces affects cognition.

Re:Context-switching matters (1)

deblau (68023) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363232)

You have to context switch from walkToObject(environment, objectLocation) to avoidObstacles(environment, perceptionFilters). Yeah avoidObstacles() is just a function call, but it's a processor-intensive one and it has higher priority.

Re:Context-switching matters (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363290)

I didn't say I don't believe the result, just that it's a weird result.

Re:Context-switching matters (3, Interesting)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363322)

Switching contexts is computationally expensive for our brains, and is a lossy procedure. Any techie can tell you that constant interruptions cause bad code because you lose context and the "gestalt" of what you are doing.

In fact, it's a little more subtle than that.
What is expensive is not switching contexts, as you can check by reading 2 web pages simultaneously, it's pretty easy.

But your performance degrades a lot when you try to multitask with your two cerebral hemispheres (for example computing and drawing at the same time).

Also, when you have similar tasks, you have an internal limit, and you can easily store tasks that fit within your limit.
When a task is closed, you'll forget it immediately, to free space for an incoming task.

My own limit is around 3.

This is called Zeigarnik effect:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspense#Zeigarnik_effect [wikipedia.org]

Re:Context-switching matters (1)

M0j0_j0j0 (1250800) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363484)

I speak four languages, and sometimes switch in matter of minutes, it is a pain in the brain to realign to the new language , and sometimes in fact you completly forget the topic in question.

Re:Context-switching matters (1)

pclminion (145572) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363800)

My wife's family is tri-lingual and they will sometimes incorporate all three languages into a single sentence. When I point out that they've done this, they claim they didn't notice they were doing it.

Re:Context-switching matters (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364192)

I noticed the same thing. I don't really speak the languages, but I studied Spanish and German in school. The only way I was able to learn the languages was to think in those languages, and then it was completely natural. But the cost of that is, as you mention, when shifting languages. You have to manually translate whatever the concepts of the topic at hand are into the new language, which uses up some of your working memory.

It is along the lines of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis [wikipedia.org] . (That the constructs of a language affect how people think and conceptualize. Or, I guess, also that language comes from how a society thinks and conceptualizes.) Linguists seem to kind of hate it, but it sure seems to play out as true in the real world.

Meetings (4, Funny)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362628)

This is why I hate going to meetings and feeling stupid. Come to my cube and I'll know the answers.

Re:Meetings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38362748)

That may actually be a sign of general anxiety than recall issues.

Re:Meetings (1)

MagicM (85041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362874)

What does it mean when the answers come to you in the bathroom instead of at your desk?

Re:Meetings (2)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363444)

It means you need more fiber....

Re:Meetings (1)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362928)

There is a lot of truth to that. Conference rooms mean boredom to me so my brain loads the boredom context. If I need to say anything meaningful I need to bring notes. My cube (now just desk) is a place where I work and my brain loads my work context. It doesn't amaze me at all that the more we learn about the brain and effective software design, the more similar the 2 become.

Re:Meetings (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363122)

I think the corollary to this explains why managers insist on separate offices with walls and doors.

I would think (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38362654)

I would think this is due to the brain first checking the next room. It being a new place, we probably want to be well aware of the room before being too far in. Thus our attention is taken away from whatever we are thinking about a minute ago.

Re:I would think (2)

Rary (566291) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365402)

What's particularly interesting is that it's not just the act of moving into a new (and unknown) room, but the act of moving into a different room than the one you were just in, even if that other room is one with which you're already familiar. In other words, it's not the newness, but the shift.

What did I come in here for... (2)

SeNtM (965176) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362670)

I this why I forget what I needed whenever I walk into the next room?

Re:What did I come in here for... (2)

marnues (906739) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362972)

My understanding is yes. In part, the other room may have a load of other things forgotten that the brain now views as a priority, because your immediate surroundings take precedent to a thought connected to now remote surroundings (the other room).

A maze of twisty passages, all alike (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38362716)

This must be why I kept forgetting whether or not I had a lamp in my inventory.

Doorway or .. (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362786)

Changing mental focus causes forgetting. Can you multi-thread?

Walking across room: : Command: Get blue pencil trudge trudge trudge See: pencils Take: blue one. w00t!

Walking across room, through door: : Command: Get green string trudge trudge trudge See: Door Look for: Knob Act: Turn knob Act: Push door Door does not open. Act: Pull door Door opens trudge trudge trudge Halt. Query: What am I in here for? Pencil? Chair? Left-handed widget extractor? Rope? Hook? Trebuchet? Keys? Potrzebie? Fail!

I frequently find distraction breaks my thread of thought and I lose the frayed thread end. Rather like going up stairs - "Uh. What did I come up here for?" Go downstairs - "Uh. What did I come down here for?" I've been doing this ever since I spent 20 minutes searching my parents house for the screwdriver I was holding in my hand all the time - I was about 12 years old at the time - I'm an expert in this field!

Re:Doorway or .. (2)

Spectre (1685) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362896)

... Trebuchet!

(all other thoughts in head now gone)

Re:Doorway or .. (1)

Sechr Nibw (1278786) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363098)

Well, in your example, you clearly had to travel twice as far in the second example. It took 3 trudges in the first example. The second example was 3 trudges, open a door, then 3 trudges!

Re:Doorway or .. (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363156)

Well, in your example, you clearly had to travel twice as far in the second example. It took 3 trudges in the first example. The second example was 3 trudges, open a door, then 3 trudges!

Both rooms were of equal size. I'll have you know this is a controlled experiment. Thankyewverramuch.

Survival mechanism (4, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362824)

As the title said, walking through doorways caused forgetting

I could see how that would be a survival instinct. When you cross a barrier into another space, job one for your brain is taking stock of where you are and processing possible threats. It's not that you forget what you have in your hand, your brain has merely busy with another set of priorities.

When our ancestors moved from the cover of the woods to a grassy meadow, when they entered a cave, or rounded the bend of a river they were effectively going through a door to another space. The surviving human brains would have been attuned to both threats and opportunities, which would be a priority processing task kicked off by crossing the barrier threshold.

Re:Survival mechanism (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362974)

I agree. A new situation needs causes the brain to clear the memory ready to assess the new input.

Re:Survival mechanism (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363128)

As the title said, walking through doorways caused forgetting

I could see how that would be a survival instinct. When you cross a barrier into another space, job one for your brain is taking stock of where you are and processing possible threats. It's not that you forget what you have in your hand, your brain has merely busy with another set of priorities.

When our ancestors moved from the cover of the woods to a grassy meadow, when they entered a cave, or rounded the bend of a river they were effectively going through a door to another space. The surviving human brains would have been attuned to both threats and opportunities, which would be a priority processing task kicked off by crossing the barrier threshold.

Now we walk into a room and look for RIAA, MPAA, FBI, CIA, CBP, IRS, CHP, Bucket o' Lawyers, Rambus, Apple's IP hounds, Fine Print, Wall Street Bankers, Lobbyists, WBC, FUD, Moderation, Metamoderation, Firehose, &c., there could be a giant space walrus with photon-flippers, but we'd completely miss it and stroll into its clutches.

Grue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364710)

there could be a giant space walrus with photon-flippers, but we'd completely miss it and stroll into its clutches.

The walrus ignored me, so I ignored him, kept on going and was eaten by a grue :(

I am find myself in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike...

Re:Survival mechanism (2)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363614)

"When our ancestors moved from the cover of the woods to a grassy meadow, when they entered a cave, or rounded the bend of a river they were effectively going through a door to another space. The surviving human brains would have been attuned to both threats and opportunities, which would be a priority processing task kicked off by crossing the barrier threshold."

Maybe this is why talking/texting on a cell phone while driving is dangerous. The person is essentially straddling a threshold between two spaces--a car surrounded by dangerous situations, and whatever space the person on the other end of the phone occupies--leaving that person with the task of "assessing" two physically separate places (one by proxy) at once.

Re:Survival mechanism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364960)

Maybe this is why talking/texting on a cell phone while driving is dangerous. The person is essentially straddling a threshold between two spaces--a car surrounded by dangerous situations, and whatever space the person on the other end of the phone occupies--leaving that person with the task of "assessing" two physically separate places (one by proxy) at once.

This is exactly correct. My dad tells me of military studies he was privy to back in the 80's that proved exactly this point. So when they first started talking about mobile phones when driving he explained to me about the mental change you need to make to think about the personl at the other end of the line in a different place. He also talked about the details of how it was different to talking to the passenger next to you, because even though you are talking, you are in the same place and hence the mind doesn't have re-adjust, the talking itself is not a big distraction.

This has happened to me many times... (3, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362886)

... And I find that at least half the time, I can mentally retrieve whatever it was I was thinking of by going to the last spot I was in where I am certain I remembered it or was thinking about it, and then physically going through the motions of whatever it was that I was doing there last time, be it sitting down, walking in a particular direction, or what have you.

It's a very weird phenomenon... like deja-vu in reverse.

Re:This has happened to me many times... (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363172)

you are just helping your short term recall.

I do that simply because I set down something important and have to go figure out where I left it.

I had one cow worker who would lose their coffee cup in the warehouse once a month. I would simply walk the warehouse searching at hand level, elbow, and shoulder level until i found it. They set it down at a conveient height and walked off without it.

sometimes I do forget a singular items off a large list of material that I quickly memorized. however by walking back and forth a couple of times I remember them most of the time.

Standard Experimental Procedure (4, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362916)

Experimenter: Please walk this way.

Subject: I think that door just sighed.

Experimenter: Ghastly, isn't it? All the doors on this experiment have been programmed to have a cheery and sunny disposition. Now, how many objects in your backpack?

Subject: Uh, really? That's, uh ... I'm sorry, what? Ah, I forget... what?

Experimenter: *scribbles on clibpoard*

Re:Standard Experimental Procedure (1)

greghodg (1453715) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363774)

Thank _you_, marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

Dance Steps (5, Interesting)

jamvger (2526832) | more than 2 years ago | (#38362980)

It is well known that when learning a new dance step, it is much easier to keep the room in the same orientation when rehearsing it. One gets particularly confused trying the step facing another direction before the step begins to be committed to muscle memory. Dancers call it "room memory" [wikipedia.org] .

Take advantage of the effect (3, Interesting)

davide marney (231845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363152)

After you have some unpleasant experience -- break up with your girlfriend, argument with your boss -- just walk into another room and start doing something else

Re:Take advantage of the effect (1)

treeves (963993) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363272)

Better yet, *while the unpleasant event is still in progress*, get up and walk out and go somewhere else. Works for me every time. At least as far as I can remember, it does.

Out of money (1)

eminencja (1368047) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363212)

How unfortunate that EU is running out of money and might no longer be able to fund such truly brilliant research.

Dog or cat DNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363234)

We must have some common sequences with dogs or cats.

once again, and for the record... (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363486)

Forgetting is a very important skill -- it's a big huge part of something that we call focus.

With the exception of completely arbitrary doors, I'd argue that every door our there separates two head-spaces for a damn good reason.

The experiment that you want to do next is to see if crossing back through the doorway re-strengthens the original memory. I would hope that it not only restrengthens the original memory, but that the original memory winds up being stronger after returning through the door (that's two door passes) than it would have been had the door not been there (that's two non-door passes).

So when do you set aside your current head-space for a new one?

Gruen Transfer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38363826)

Malls have known this forever. It's called the Gruen Transfer.

Next.

Some like this some like that (1)

sugarmotor (621907) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363834)

Some people are better at this and some better at that. I couldn't find numbers mentioned in the scientist article, only that "Memory was worse", not how much worse, in whatever sense, for how many people, for which people, etc.

Very Interesting (1)

Froggels (1724218) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363840)

There is a lot to criticize in life, but this study is not one.

In the first place... (5, Informative)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38363950)

In the first place, this has been known since the time of the ancient Greeks, in the form of the memorization technique known as the "method of loci." Rhetoricians memorized their speeches by associating each part of the speech with a room in their house, and as they gave the speech would mentally walk through the house. This is in fact the source of our expressions "in the first place," "in the second place," etc.

In the second place... uh... I forgot what I was going to say.

My cache has room for one entry (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364080)

When I loaded the new room, the old one get LRUed.

OLD machine translation joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364228)

Translated into Russian and back: Invisible Vodka.

Better (and supposedly true): Hydraulic Ram - ? - Water Sheep. Baah!

Good excuse for school (1)

Maxhrk (680390) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364294)

If your teacher said what was your excuse this time for late homework, you say "blame your door right there, it is the cause of my memory loss."

Eh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38364312)

I think another study, done with a different looking room accessible around a corner, and through an open corridor, would produce similar results. Your mind has to process the new location, and I don't believe it matters so much what the transport method is to get there. Perhaps even a trial where they made the person close their eyes and walk in place for a similar amount of time and then ever so slightly changed his surroundings (moved the chair 3 inches, the clock 2 inches, etc) would produce similar results. Glad people are still working on reverse engineering the heuristics our brains use...

The Solution (2)

nickdc (1444247) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364408)

No doors. When I run my business I want my employees to be ahead of the game. Everything will be open to everyone all the time. There will be no 4 sided objects or anything that even resemble a doorway in fact. My employees will be the best! On an unrelated note, anyone know of an open field for sale in Kansas?

Hank? (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364988)

Is that you Hank? [wikia.com]

I'm sure I've read this on /. before (1)

Rhodri Mawr (862554) | more than 2 years ago | (#38364490)

But that might have been in a different room...

Anyway, the title "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" reminded me of the early translation engines, which translated it to "Invisible, Idiot".

What if you're blind. (2)

bronney (638318) | more than 2 years ago | (#38365096)

And the door is triple sized so the blind doesn't even know he walked through a door. What if it's a normal size door and he felt that he walked through something but being blind from birth, the door concept must have been real different from us.

Are they better at remembering things?

What if they change the experiment to automatic doors, glass vs. wood, etc. It'd be interesting.

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