Where’s My Slipper?

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. Noooooo. Think again. 

That’s exactly what researchers set to find out. University of Utah psychology professors determined that “inattention blindness” or the inability to notice an object or person directly 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? The flexibility or control that people have over their attention allows them to notice these unexpected events aka finding the object or person. This concept can be a challenge for some. In fact, very few people can talk on the phone while driving and still avoid unforeseen hazards. Most would be unable to avoid the obstacle.

How Can These Skills And Others Help You Find Something? 

Working memory capacity correlates with multitasking skills. Some people need to focus on one thing at a time, others find it simplistic and almost necessary 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 the 3 different breakfast orders just placed, putting in your earrings, telling your daughter for the 97th time to brush her teeth, and running the list of what other items need to get out the door before you start carpool drop offs may 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 “unforeseen” 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? Personal experience would say yes. Researchers at Auburn University have shown that there are functional differences in neural recruitment when males and females are challenged with working memory tasks. This doesn’t necessarily preclude a male from completing the task. 

Suffice to say, if you possess exceptional working memory and inattention blindness, you may be permanently assigned to find the missing items in your home. Or at least you’d always win games like memory and simon.

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