I know I'm not the only one who can forget where he laid his car keys. Like many of you, it happens far more often that I care to admit. But perhaps my power is extra special - I not only lose the keys, but return to the car only to forget where I was going.
Described at Mindhacks blog as the "doorway effect," this problem of destination is not so much a lapse in memory, but a mismatch between our surroundings an the ongoing catalog of purpose that guides us through daily life. The result leaves us wandering, or, in my case, searching the house for keys that I had only moments before.
Tom Stafford at Mindhacks:
When things are going well, often in familiar situations, we keep our attention on what we want and how we do it seems to take care of itself. If you’re a skilled driver then you manage the gears, indicators and wheel automatically, and your attention is probably caught up in the less routine business of navigating the traffic or talking to your passengers. When things are less routine we have to shift our attention to the details of what we’re doing, taking our minds off the bigger picture for a moment. Hence the pause in conversation as the driver gets to a tricky junction, or the engine starts to make a funny sound.
The way our attention moves up and down the hierarchy of action is what allows us to carry out complex behaviours, stitching together a coherent plan over multiple moments, in multiple places or requiring multiple actions.
The Doorway Effect occurs when our attention moves between levels, and it reflects the reliance of our memories – even memories for what we were about to do – on the environment we’re in.
As I was reading this it occurred to me that the mismatch between memory and purpose might also offer an important benefit: an informed distraction and a purposeful change in environment can free our minds to forget.
That's a lot like how I envision the IdeaFestival working. One session on the entrepreneurial life followed by another hour on the great unanswered questions in cosmology followed by interpretive demonstrations from Creative Capital and Art Without Walls artists - the time spent can leave us lost in very special and expansive ways. Letting go of any one "result" - our preoccupations before sliding into a seat at the Kentucky Center for the Arts - can solve the problem of destination in wonderfully unexpected ways.
I hope to see you at IdeaFestival 2016 this year! The first of many speaker announcements can be found here. And Early Bird festival passes are now on sale. But please don't wait too long - remember, the price will never be lower.