What is the “threshold effect”, and why do we suddenly forget what we want to say or do?

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2021-03-29 00:13:18

Imagine, you are watching the hot Zack Snyder version of Justice League on the TV. Due to the movie being 4 hours long, the huge popcorn basket was all over in the middle. So you get up and go to the kitchen to get more. But when you step into the kitchen, you suddenly stop and think: “Why am I here?”

After a bit of confusion, you head back to the living room. As soon as you put yourself in the chair, you remember that you want to get popcorn. So you go back to the kitchen, but this time with fresh determination.

This is probably the situation that everyone has encountered. At least once in our life we ​​”suddenly” don’t remember why we walked into the room, or forget what we’re about to say – even though it’s only a few minutes before the text is still in our heads.

This common phenomenon is called the “threshold effect”. A team of Australian scientists have tried to explain what’s going on in the human brain by coming up with a new theory.

As we all know, our brain is like a computer “multitasking” when processing many processes at the same time. It is not so strange that something suddenly “went missing” …

In the research framework, scientists have conducted a number of tests in virtual reality environments. 74 volunteers were asked to “walk” through computer-generated 3D virtual rooms (all connected in a circle) and try to memorize objects in each room. These objects come in different shapes and colors, such as a blue cone or a yellow cross.

What is the threshold effect, and why do we suddenly forget what we want to say or do?  - Photo 2.

At first there was no “threshold effect” in the participants, so we assume the volunteers may have too good memories, “ Psychologist Oliver Baumann of Bond University (Australia) said. “Then we complicated the task and asked them to walk from room to room, count down and memorize numbers. This made their memory work harder.”

This additional task is already working. Some participants became more sensitive to the “threshold effect”. In other words, this short term “oblivion” occurs only if our brain is overworked and in a “vulnerable state”.

In the second experiment, volunteers were asked to walk along several corridors while observing others doing the same task. This time the “threshold effect” was not detected.

Why are the results this time different?

Australian scientists believe that is because they designed the rooms to look exactly the same. There is no change of context between virtual rooms, and therefore no surprise appearing from room to room. This means: the threshold itself does not cause oblivion, but due to environmental change.

What is the threshold effect, and why do we suddenly forget what we want to say or do?  Photo 3.

This is explained by the team because there are stark differences in scenery. When we go down the corridor, the surroundings do not change much, and when we move from room to room, there is a more sudden change in scenery. This can make us forget something because the brain is “busy” processing the newly acquired information.

Imagine we are in a shopping mall. Taking the elevator from the basement parking lot to the store floor makes our brain “forget” more than taking the elevator but moving between two floors.

Is the sill effect a bad thing?

So how can we improve our working memory when we have to move from room to room?

The results of this test show that the more tasks we perform at the same time, the more likely our memory is to be “free from” the threshold.

What is the threshold effect, and why do we suddenly forget what we want to say or do?  - Photo 4.

We can only remember a certain amount of information at a time. When we are distracted by thoughts of other things, our memory can easily become overwhelmed.

This fact is not only true of thresholds. Our brains are involved in “event segmentation” in all aspects of our life, whether in physical space or in a more abstract sense.

So what can we do?

In most cases, the tendency to divide our lives into separate events is actually beneficial. Due to the limited capacity of the brain to store information, we cannot remember too many things at once.

Hence, it is more efficient if we just retrieve information about the current situation instead of trying to remember everything that happened recently.

What is the threshold effect, and why do we suddenly forget what we want to say or do?  Photo 5.

The brain releasing information to avoid overload is a natural defense mechanism, but if we want to get rid of the ambiguity every time we cross a threshold, keep our mind focused. So the next time you want to eat more popcorn while watching your favorite TV show, keep thinking about popcorn from the time you leave your chair to the time you go into the kitchen.

Solution of scientists

Thus, understanding how environmental changes can “reset” the brain will help us find ways to control and reduce the “threshold effect” in the future. However, at this time, scientists still have not found a way, or may have already found it, but forgot it due to the influence of the “threshold effect”?

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