Mentally walking through doorways causes forgetting: The location updating effect and imagination

Memory. 2016;24(1):12-20. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2014.980429. Epub 2014 Nov 20.


Researchers have documented an intriguing phenomenon whereby simply walking through a doorway causes forgetting (the location updating effect). The Event Horizon Model is the most commonly cited theory to explain these data. Importantly, this model explains the effect without invoking the importance or reliance upon perceptual information (i.e., seeing oneself pass through the doorway). This generates the intriguing hypothesis that the effect may be demonstrated in participants who simply imagine walking through a doorway. Across two experiments, we explicitly test this hypothesis. Participants familiarised themselves with both real (Experiment 1) and virtual (Experiment 2) environments which served as the setting for their mental walk. They were then provided with an image to remember and were instructed to imagine themselves walking through the previously presented space. In both experiments, when the mental walk required participants to pass through a doorway, more forgetting occurred, consistent with the predictions laid out in the Event Horizon Model.

Keywords: Cognition; Event Horizon Model; Forgetting; Memory.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Walking*