Walking through doorways causes forgetting: Event structure or updating disruption?

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2016 Nov;69(11):2119-29. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2015.1101478. Epub 2016 Feb 16.


According to event cognition theory, people segment experience into separate event models. One consequence of this segmentation is that when people transport objects from one location to another, memory is worse than if people move across a large location. In two experiments participants navigated through a virtual environment, and recognition memory was tested in either the presence or the absence of a location shift for objects that were recently interacted with (i.e., just picked up or set down). Of particular concern here is whether this location updating effect is due to (a) differences in retention intervals as a result of the navigation process, (b) a temporary disruption in cognitive processing that may occur as a result of the updating processes, or (c) a need to manage multiple event models, as has been suggested in prior research. Experiment 1 explored whether retention interval is driving this effect by recording travel times from the acquisition of an object and the probe time. The results revealed that travel times were similar, thereby rejecting a retention interval explanation. Experiment 2 explored whether a temporary disruption in processing is producing the effect by introducing a 3-second delay prior to the presentation of a memory probe. The pattern of results was not affected by adding a delay, thereby rejecting a temporary disruption account. These results are interpreted in the context of the event horizon model, which suggests that when there are multiple event models that contain common elements there is interference at retrieval, which compromises performance.

Keywords: Event cognition; Event models; Mental models; Spatial updating.

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology*
  • Students
  • Time Factors
  • Universities
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Walking*