A couple weeks ago I was at my desk checking on the state of the world when I got sidetracked by a story titled, “Walking Through Doorways Causes
Forgetting, New Research Shows.” That kind of fragmented title has me asking, “Forgetting what?” But, I guess that’s the problem. They don’t know because they forgot.
Susan Guibert of the Notre Dame News reported on a study conducted by Gabriel Radvansky, a psychology professor there. She writes: “We’ve all experienced it: The frustration of entering a room and forgetting what we were going to do. Or get. Or find.”
According to Professor Radvansky this is because doorways are the culprit. “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away.”
Radvansky concludes that walking through a doorway triggers lapses in memory.
I would submit that there is an exception to his conclusion: bathroom doorways; because once the decision to enter that room has been made there can be no turning back.
The forgettable reseach study included only college students; presumably all in their late teens and early 20’s. If college students have memory issues now they are going be in big trouble when they are older and have more to forget. What are they teaching these kids? Perhaps some memorization exercises are in order.
I think Notre Dame’s absent-minded professor should have expanded his research beyond that of walking through doorways and studied other causes for sudden memory loss. Walking smack into a door, for instance, will suddenly dislodge everything from your mind other than the pain you are experiencing. Getting interrupted while talking can make a person forget what they were going to say.
It’s easy to get distracted, especially if you’re easily distracted. Look at this, listen to that, go there, come here (“just a minute”); the diversions never seem to stop. We are beset with dozens of things that demand our attention. If I’m not careful I can get so lost in a song on the radio or a conversation with a passenger that I can sit through all three colors at a stoplight.
Writers can often get sidetracked from where they started to where they want to be – sometimes even between paragraphs. Often when I sit down to write, I start with one idea and find myself pulled along by another. It’s known as chasing or going down a rabbit trail.
Rabbits seldom stay on the straight and narrow. They hop from here to there, stopping only momentarily before they start off in another direction. Their trails are hard to follow, and they often seem to be headed nowhere in particular.
Rabbits are very fleet-footed; lucky for them as they have no natural defenses. But for all their hopping around rabbits have very little to think about: eating, staying alive, and keeping up their reputation of going forth and multiplying. As Emerson said “All the thoughts of a turtle are turtles, and of a rabbit, rabbits.”
Cousins of the turtle and rabbits are the tortoise and the hare that were made famous in one of Aesop’s fables. The moral of that fable is that you should concentrate on what you’re doing and don’t be distracted, for slow and steady wins the race. Or you might lose your place.
Now where was I?