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Why you forgot what you were just doing

By Maren Kasselik
Men's Health

Have you ever walked into a room and realized you don’t remember what you’re doing there? Yeah, us too. Well thankfully science finally explains why: It’s the doorway’s fault, a new study finds.

“When you go from room to room, your brain identifies each room as a new event and sets a new memory trace to capture the new event,” says study author Gabriel Radvansky, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Like a chapter marker, doorways end old episodes and begin new ones, as far as your brain is concerned. This makes it difficult to retrieve older memories because they’ve already been filed away, Radvansky says.

Radvansky suggests physically carrying a reminder of what your intent is: “For example, if you want to go from the living room to the kitchen to get a snack, you may forget why you went to the kitchen when you get there because this is a new event, and you may have been distracted. But, it would be easier to remember if you walked into the kitchen with something to remind yourself of what you wanted, such as a bowl.”

Don’t keep bowls in the living room? That’s OK. Form your hand into a bowl shape when you walk to the kitchen. If you’re going from room to room to fetch a pair of scissors, hold your index and middle fingers in a scissor shape to help the memory stay intact.

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