The ‘doorway effect’, or ‘location updating effect’, claims that we tend to forget items of recent significance immediately after crossing a boundary. Previous research suggests that such a forgetting effect occurs both at physical boundaries (e.g., moving from one room to another via a door) and metaphysical boundaries (e.g., imagining traversing a doorway, or even when moving from one desktop window to another on a computer). Here, we aimed to conceptually replicate this effect using virtual and physical environments.
Across four experiments, we measured participants’ hit and false alarm rates to memory probes for items recently encountered either in the same or previous room. Experiments 1 and 2 used highly immersive virtual reality without and with working memory load (Experiments 1 and 2, respectively). Experiment 3 used passive video watching and Experiment 4 used active real-life movement. Data analysis was conducted using frequentist as well as Bayesian inference statistics.
Across this series of experiments, we observed no significant effect of doorways on forgetting. In Experiment 2, however, signal detection was impaired when participants responded to probes after moving through doorways, such that false alarm rates were increased for mismatched recognition probes. Thus, under working memory load, memory was more susceptible to interference after moving through doorways.
This study presents evidence that is inconsistent with the location updating effect as it has previously been reported. Our findings call into question the generalisability and robustness of this effect to slight paradigm alterations and, indeed, what factors contributed to the effect observed in previous studies.