The doorway effect

24th March 2019. Reading Time: 5 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 2865 page views. 1 comments.

Do you ever walk into the room with an intention and then suddenly as you enter the room you have completely forgotten why you walked in the room to begin with? This can fall under a memory phenomenon called 'The Doorway Effect'. The main trigger - walking through a doorway. So what does this mean for how we recall information during our paranormal investigations?

Do you ever have one of those moments where you walk into a room with a certain intent, and suddenly as you enter that room, you can't for the life of you remember why you even walked in the room in the first place? All this time I blamed it on things like 'baby brain' or just getting older. It turns out that this is actually a real phenomena caused by something called 'The Doorway Effect'. It seems the trigger, is as simple as walking through a doorway. So it got me thinking, when you are in a location doing a paranormal investigation, you are likely walking through one of many doorways during the night. What does this mean for how we recall information during our paranormal investigations?

What is the doorway effect?

Psychologists believe that passing through a doorway and entering a different room creates a ‘mental block’ in the brain, which means that walking through open doors resets the memory to make room for the creation of a new episode. This is generally referred to as the doorway effect.

Essentially what it means is that when we pass through a doorway, our brain needs time to adjust to the new environment. It has to almost re-calibrate the thinking process which can cause us to have a sudden lapse in memory. The doorway effect was tested by Gabriel Radvansky, Sabine Krawietz, and Andrea Tamplin from the University of Notre Dame in Indianapolis, USA in 2011. The tests to demonstrate this phenomenon was very simple. Initially, the tests were completed in a virtual environment on a computer. The test subjects were given an item to remember. The item was then put in a virtual backpack so they couldn't see the object anymore and the test subjects had to virtually move objects from a table at one side of the room to a table at the other side of the room. In other instances, they had to pass through a doorway in order to do so. After this had been completed, they were asked to recall what the item was. The test results indicated that the memory of the participants was worse whenever they passed through the doorway. The next set of tests were in a real environment using real rooms. They were given an item and it was then put in a cardboard box. They had to then move the box from one table to another in the same room and in other instances, they had to pass through a doorway. Again once complete they were asked to recall what the object was. The results still indicated that passing through a doorway, caused the participants to 'forget' what their item was.

It is thought by psychologists that this is a survival mechanism of the brain. You are leaving a safe and known environment and suddenly entering a new unknown (or uncalibrated) environment. Some people refer to this as the location update effect. Your brain in a sense throws away information it doesn't think you need to know (such as remembering a small object) so it can remain alert and cautious and 'refresh' this new environment. I like to think of it like when you click on a link in an internet browser and it takes you to a new page. The brain I guess interprets this in a similar way.

The doorway effect and paranormal investigating

Obviously, when someone is on a paranormal investigation, it is inevitable that they will be walking through a doorway at some point. In a lot of cases, this may not even be a factor to worry about. When you think though of the fact that this is thought to be a form of a survival mechanism especially when in unknown environments, you are almost in the perfect environment for this to occur on a paranormal investigation. I am not talking about things like accidentally leaving your recorder in a room and forgetting to pick it up or not remembering which equipment you were going to use in the next room (although at least now you why it is happening), I more look at it from a perspective as to how we are remembering the things that are happening during an investigation accurately. I have spoken before about false memories and we ourselves know that we are not reliable when it comes to having to remember things. This is just another layer to consider. Little pieces of information which are relevant or important that have happened in one room, may suddenly be forgotten when you move to the next room. You would be unaware of this and it may have some kind of effect on how you continue on your investigation. I also have to wonder if when a person becomes disorientated and can't remember 'why they are in a room' if this is a simple explanation. A lot of the time people feel they are being affected by spirit and have a bit of a brain fog moment and feel like they don't know where they are or what has happened (I have actually had this happen myself), when it could just be a case that their brain is trying to understand the surroundings of a new room that it is not used to. When I think about my own experience, it happened straight after I entered through a doorway. If I combine the power of suggestion and how I was feeling, this is a very real possible explanation as to what I was experiencing at the time. We can be quick to label any foreign feelings on 'spirit affecting us' because we are in the moment.

There are definitely some points to consider here. There is no sure-fire way to combat this problem, but when it comes to paranormal investigating, take notes of everything before you leave a room and if you have access to one, film everything with a video camera. As I have said before, a video camera is not necessarily a tool to capture amazing paranormal activity, but it is a REAL account of the actual events that have happened as they happened and not a person's recollection of it. This is important as we now know our memory can be affected by something as simple as walking through a doorway. At least now we know we are not going crazy or just getting old, we can blame it on the door!


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  • Bertil 5 years ago

    I did not know that.