Why does opening new tabs make me forget in the same way when you walk into a room?



Whenever I walked into a new room, sometimes I forget what I’m going to do. This also happens with me when I open a new tab in Chrome. Does anyone know why?

In: Other

When your brain is doing a specific task, sometimes it gets caught up in the smaller tasks it has to do to get there and accidentally erases the original task while in “Complete!” mode.

It has something to do with short-term memory transitioning into long-term memory, where there’s apparently some kind of blind spot between the two that makes it hard to functionally recall the idea in your mind until much later.

It also has something to do with the brain taking in a new environment. Every time you walk into a room, your brain has to take a moment to process your surroundings and recall the information about said room. Sometimes, this is so powerful of an instinct that it erases the task it had in memory in order to recall the other memory about the environment, but it happens so fast that we just blank out. Since surfing the web is a similar process as exploring terrain, this problem sometimes overlaps with our internet habits.

Not sure. But I found making the new tab a blank page helps me a lot. Anything, even an empty Google search box is enough to distract me from what I opened the tab for. I’ve turned off all my phone notifications for the same reason. I was constantly going to check something, but as soon as I opened the phone I’d see a notification or badge with a number on it, I’d get distracted.

There is something called The Doorway Effect. Essentially our brains can only hold so much information so when a task is complete, you don’t need to remember it anymore. When you are doing a task and change environment, (I.e. walk through a door) your mind almost refreshes to think the task is complete: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20160307-why-does-walking-through-doorways-make-us-forget

This can also work with video games and other virtual “environments” too, so when a new tab is opened, your brain drops the information it no longer thinks it needs.

There has been research done on restaurant waiters. They found that staff could remember orders with high accuracy. However, as soon as the food was delivered to the diners, they would forget the order.

There are several things going on here, and the doorway effect has been mentioned. This is a thing and applies to the end of a task. But the tab open effect will hit you even mid task.

This is because sudden large screen changes clear a persons working space memory. It’s been studied and even very quick transition effects reduce this effect massively (sorry too lazy to go find a reference). Software designers can use this to mitigate this experience for individual tasks meant to be executed via multiple screens.