No, this isn’t about Cinderella, despite my 4 year old suggesting it. In a house with 5 people, 3 of which are children, the frequency of lost or rather misplaced items is a constant. Where’s my backpack? Where are my snow pants? Where are my goggles? Despite the size of the item, the question is asked. You would think that something as large as a backpack or snow pants would be an easy find, but no, think again.
That’s exactly what researchers set out to find. University of Utah psychology professors determined that ‘inattention blindness’ or the inability to notice an object or person directly in front of you correlates with ‘working memory capacity’ or aptitude to focus attention on more than one thing. Working memory is synonymous with short term memory and was coined by Miller, Galanter, and Pribram in the 1960s.
So what does this mean? Are some people unable to find things because they are incapable of seeing what’s right in front of them? Maybe so! The flexibility or control that people have over their attention to do more than one thing simultaneously is an important puzzle piece in the quest to find lost items.
How Can These Skills And Others Really Help You Find Something?
Let’s look a little closer. Working memory capacity correlates with multitasking skills. Some people need to focus on one thing at a time, whereas others find that way of living very simplistic. Instead they have to multitask all day to get enough of a mental workout to sleep at night. If your brain allows you to find your son’s swim bag while considering how to efficiently make the 3 different breakfast orders just placed, put in your earrings, tell your daughter for the 97th time to brush her teeth, all while running the list of what other items need to get out the door with your kids before you start carpool drop offs might permanently assign you the task of finding things in your household.
Do you have to be a good detective? Is this essential to find that hidden item in your home? Cognitive training is a trending area of investigation. Many researchers are asking if working memory can be enhanced to improve deductive reasoning, a key component of being a good detective. Remember A=B and B= C, then A=C? Gathering the evidence that you have and making that leap is critical in deducing where that item might be.
Gender bias aside, do you have to be female to excel at finding things in your home? Researchers at Auburn University have shown that there are functional differences in neural recruitment when males and females are challenged with working memory tasks. However, this doesn’t preclude a male from completing the search to find the missing item.