A very intriguing new study at Notre Dame (http://newsinfo.nd.edu/news/27476-walking-through-doorways-causes-forgetting-new-research-shows/, thanks to nhne-pulse.org for the heads-up) suggests that walking through a doorway increases forgetting. Regardless of whether subjects walked through a doorway in a virtual reality, this reality, or walked through a series of doors that brought them back to the original room, they were all more likely to forget the decision involving an object that they’d made in that room than subjects who walked a comparable distance without passing through a door.
The researcher Gabriel Radvansky interpreted the results as suggesting that “[e]ntering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” and impedes one’s ability to retrieve thoughts or decisions made in a different room.
This is surprising to me because the neurofeedback and meditation teacher Anna Wise trained people to increase their theta brainwaves by visualizing moving through, into, over, under, etc. -- taking any kind of path that involved a lot of changes. This is supposed to help you access repressed memories from the personal unconscious, as well as creativity, and intuition. I have found that just listening to theta brainwave entrainment CDs – even without visualizing – will lead to “theta-esque” dreams with lots of traveling through, into, etc.
So, how can we reconcile this apparent contradiction between the two researchers?
One possibility is that passing through a doorway decreases memory for unimportant things because it redirects the mind to more pressing, personal material.
I’d like to see what happens if subjects are asked to write about an important personal memory in one room, and then walk through a doorway. I'd also like to see what happens if they retrace their steps back to the original room by simply reversing course, and undoing their odyssey. That condition wasn’t tested.
Here’s another thought. One of the conditions that seems to facilitate spirit contact is driving in a car. This may be because it induces a light trance state (theta?). It certainly involves moving through space a lot, and crossing various scene boundaries. So, hypothetically, just walking through a door does a light version of something similar – not only separating events, but inducing slowing of brainwaves.
As my friend Barbara says, it’s a bit of a koan – You go into a second room. You can’t remember what you had wanted when you were in the first room. What do you remember in the second room?