The University of Notre Dame published an interesting study on “Event Boundaries” that cause the everyday each of us to lose track of who we are and what we were planning to do:

We’ve all experienced it: The frustration of entering a room and forgetting what we were going to do. Or get. Or find.

New research from University of Notre Dame Psychology Professor Gabriel Radvansky suggests that passing through doorways is the cause of these memory lapses.

“Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” Radvansky explains.

“Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.”

Walking through a physical doorway may very well cause an event boundary — but I also know there are virtual event boundaries that happen every day on the internet — and the doorway that triggers the event is  the creation of a new viewing entrepôt — a new browser tab.

How many times have you been doing a task in one browser tab and then your memory nudges you to do something else, and you fire up a new browser window and, as you begin to try to start working anew, just you find yourself completely alone and forgetful as to why you left the original window in the first place?

Sometimes, returning to the previous tab will spark a recollection of the other task you wanted to do, but oftentimes, a return to the back tab will only cause you to create yet another new tab for something else you just remembered you needed to do. It’s a Möbius
strip of Internet Event Boundaries!

I use the Google Chrome web browser and, by default, I have seven tabs pinned open at all times:  Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Voice, Google Music, Feedly, the admin area and the main index page for this blog.  All those tabs are my active — forgetful-inducing! — windows on the world, and then when I begin the workday, I open new, full-sized, tabs that are always ready for memory zinging.

The curse of Möbius strip multitasking can be the division of your day into multiple event boundary events marked by mysteriously opened, but empty, browser tabs, that try to clue you in to the overwhelming artifacts waiting to infect your mind and erase your instinct for purpose.

My concern is that the busier we get, the more forgetful we become, as overwhelming forgetfulness tries to unwittingly send us back to the tranquil mind against our better will.


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