Previous: What Your Dance Moves Say About Who You Are
Next: What Does Facebook Really Know About Your Personality?



View count:84,919
Last sync:2023-10-26 23:30
Do you often lose things like your keys? Psychology can explain not only why it happens, but also some ways to combat that.

Hosted by: Brit Garner
Support SciShow by becoming a patron on Patreon:
Dooblydoo thanks go to the following Patreon supporters:
Lazarus G, Sam Lutfi, Nicholas Smith, D.A. Noe, alexander wadsworth, سلطا الخليفي, Piya Shedden, KatieMarie Magnone, Scott Satovsky Jr, Charles Southerland, Bader AlGhamdi, James Harshaw, Patrick D. Ashmore, Candy, Tim Curwick, charles george, Saul, Mark Terrio-Cameron, Viraansh Bhanushali, Kevin Bealer, Philippe von Bergen, Chris Peters, Justin Lentz
Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?

Image Source:
[ ♪ INTRO ].

It's the most annoying thing. You're about to walk out of the house when you realize you have no idea where your keys are.

They're not on the little hook by the door where you're supposed to put them, of course. And though you tear your place apart, it takes you like 30 minutes to figure out where you put them. Frequently losing things like your keys is one example of everyday forgetfulness, and psychology can explain not only why it happens, but also some ways you can combat it.

Don't worry — losing something like your keys is not a sure sign that your memory is going. Anywhere from one third to one half of young people consider themselves forgetful, doing things like frequently misplacing objects or forgetting names or faces. And these little “cognitive failures” don't have anything to do with your intelligence, either.

Their frequency and severity don't correlate with things like general cognitive ability or IQ, and psychologists stress that they stem from absentmindedness, not a lack of intellect. Really, if anything, how often you lose your stuff could be more tied to your genes than your smarts, age, or health. About 50% of the variation between people can be traced to genetic factors.

For example, scientists have found a link between benign memory lapses and certain variations in the gene that encodes for the dopamine D2 receptor, or DRD2. Not to be confused with R2D2, this is a protein that binds the neurotransmitter dopamine, and it's heavily involved in the cellular communication that occurs when you try to recall where things are. Other small gene changes have similarly been linked to forgetfulness.

But it's not all predetermined. How you think about your memory problems may also have an effect. According to research, people who believe they have control over their memory tend to be less forgetful than those who think forgetfulness is just an irreversible part of getting old.

Studies also find general support for the idea that memory training and learning specific strategies can improve your recall. This all makes sense when you break down what's actually happening in your brain when you forget where something is. From a psychological perspective, losing your keys means one of two things has happened:.

You've either failed to recall where you put them, or you never knew where they were put in the first place. The latter can happen if you're not paying attention when you set them down. To remember information, you have to do what psychologists call encoding.

That's where you store the information you've just gained — like, the location you're putting your keys — into your brain's short term storage or working memory. You simply don't have enough storage space to remember every sight, smell, sound, and feeling. So only the things you selectively focus on in your environment — those that are given your attention — can get stored.

That means if you're not paying attention when you set down your keys — say, you're hungry and thinking about what you might have for dinner instead — then you'll never remember where they are. You didn't actually store that information in your brain to begin with. The good news is, psychologists say that simple things can actually help with this.

Like, as silly as it sounds, you could announce out loud where you're putting stuff. “Hear ye, I am putting my keys on the counter”. Or, at least, take the moment to really think about where you're putting them and why. That way, there's something to remember later when you need to find them.

Your forgetfulness might also stem from the other end of things: the whole remembering bit. For example, you might just be remembering the wrong thing, since recollection can be impaired by something called interference. Basically, when you try to remember where your keys are, any memories you have of ever setting them down can compete to be the one recalled.

So if you constantly move your keys around, you might remember them being on your dresser, on your coffee table, or by the door — which makes it tougher to remember which place you actually used last. People who are less prone to everyday cognitive lapses, whether because of genetics or otherwise, don't tend to have this problem as often. They're better at remembering the right spot and forgetting the others — a phenomenon called retrieval-induced forgetting.

But for those of us who aren't so awesome at that, psychologists recommend having a dedicated spot for things you often lose, like a key hook by the door, which can help cut down on interference. And if you make hanging your keys automatic, then there's also a good chance they'll be on the hook, even if you didn't take the time to focus on where you put them. Admittedly, though, relying on automation could make it harder to remember where things are if you don't put them where you're supposed to, because of that whole attention bit.

So maybe the best way not to lose your keys is to have a dedicated spot and to always be very attentive about putting them there. Like, announcing “Hear ye, I am hanging my keys on the hook” while you do it every time you get home. I never said the tricks to not losing your stuff were cool.

If you want to improve your memory in general, you could also try exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Both have been tied to better cognitive performance and less forgetfulness, though results vary. And if you still can't find your keys, you might look into one of those remote finder things that you can slip on your keychain.

Hey, whatever works, right? Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Psych! If you consider yourself a forgetful person, it's okay.

It might not be totally your fault — because sometimes, your memories can trick you. You can watch our episode to learn how. [ ♪OUTRO ].