Friday, May 11, 2012

Forgetfulness may not be a sign of aging, just the result of a change of venue

A colleague told me recently that while driving to work he'd thought of a long list of things to accomplish but -- just as soon as he set foot in his office -- he couldn't remember anything on his list. "I must be getting old," he complained.

A note by Marc Silver in the "Next" section of this month's National Geographic provides a happier explanation. He writes of research published by Notre Dame's Gabe Radvansky that suggests that people simply don't remember things as well when they cross through a doorway. Silver summarizes Professor Radvansky's conclusion: "Change of venue makes the brain 'push old stuff out and focus on what's going on now,' a good strategy for cavemen heading from forest to field."

Radvansky's paper, which was published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, may be accessed here. Another summary of Radvansky's work, by Susan Guibert, can be found on the Notre Dame website.

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