It has happened to all of us, we think we know what we are looking for and suddenly you do not. As you enter the next room, you are left wondering why on earth did you walk through the door? You run upstairs to grab your phone before going out, and then when you get into the bedroom you no longer remember why you came upstairs. Or try this one, you open the fridge door and start to reach in, but then you can’t remember what you needed.
All these things can be confusing and even cause a little embarrassment, but you will probably feel better knowing that it is extremely common. It is known as the “Doorway Effect” and it shows us exactly how our mind is organized. Understanding why it happens may let you not feel as bad when it does, and be a little less annoyed.
As we move through our day we tend to move through our goals and ambitions: thinking about our plans and strategies. All the way through until you get to the bottom line: an actual action. When everything is going well, you just keep thinking about what you want and everything just falls into place. For example, if you are a great driver then when you change the gears of your car you probably just do it with muscle memory and keep looking at the bigger picture. But when you get into a tricky situation when your mind focuses on the little things, this explains the pause in conversation when making a difficult turn or if your engine suddenly makes a strange noise.
Basically, our attention moves in function of the importance of the action, allowing us to put together a plan that makes sense and plan multiple actions over multiple moments.
Get your keys is part of a larger plan in your mind of “going to work” or “being responsible” so when you start to formulate going upstairs the “keys” part is forgotten while thinking through the hierarchy of these actions. And the doorway effect is multiplied due to a physical action taking place. You move while thinking about so many different things, with a quick thought up plan then you tend to forget the action at the moment.