Word of the Month: Doorway Effect

Or perhaps if I were to really cling to the singular noun: doorway. Or, effect. Unfortunately neither of those make for particularly interesting or exciting titles, nor very accurate ones to what I wanted to talk about. So please bear with the Words of the Month this time.

I’m sure everyone at some point in their life has walked into a room with some intention of doing something, only to completely forget once they were there. Or opened a tab on their browser and forgotten what they were going to look up. Or unlocked their phone on impulse of doing something only to stare blankly at their background and assorted apps wondering what it was they were about to do. This phenomenon is known as the Doorway Effect, and it took me over a year to successfully look it up without forgetting what I was looking up in the first place. It then took leaving the month for me to actually remember to write about it. Oops.

I feel this past February has suffered this effect more than any other month, possibly because I entirely forgot that February was coming to an end, as I had forgotten that it was short. According to Tom Stafford on the BBC, the sudden loss of memory is caused more or less by the change of both physical and mental environments. Different physical environments have different memories and associations attached to them – your bedroom does not necessarily remind you of that empty mug that’s been on your shelf for three days that you were going to wash up. Your mental environment also changes from “I have to get that mug!” to “I have to go to my bedroom!” and so the priority thoughts in your head are shifted. Upon crossing the threshold to the month, my entire memory of the actual length of this month vanished as I prioritised the actual things that would be happening.

Aside from my personal inability to remember to buy a birthday card at the same time as the presents for my partner, as well as all the Valentines Day kerfuffle, the world at large seemed to be forgetting an awful lot of things.

Perhaps the entire change of environment in public bathrooms really does have some odd psychological connotations, because people seem to have forgotten basic human decency and the public discussion of transgender rights and their safety seems to have spurred a large number of people to harass other people in bathrooms – based entirely on their appearance and ability to conform to social gender roles.

Maybe leaving USA land confuses a lot of people, which is why protesters at Standing Rock were violently attacked and arrested for protesting a USA pipeline that was going through their land.

Perhaps the excitement of going abroad confused Theresa May and made her forget to discuss the Immigration ban, thus leading to a Welsh teacher being denied entry to New York but the other teachers and students being untouched.

Maybe all these forgotten things caused some great confusing hallucination for Donald Trump, who declared something bad had happened in Sweden, despite no one in the country knowing what he meant. (Or maybe the entirety of Sweden walked into a different room and collectively forgot the alleged disaster.)

If there was one Doorway Effect I was actually grateful for this month, though, it was walking into the cinema and forgetting for just a moment exactly how horrible and bleak the world can be while Lego Batman played on the screen. Maybe if we all crossed that threshold together, we’d forget a lot of our prejudices and come together with spectacular abs and save Gotham the world together.


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