The Doorway Effect

Here’s a fun idea for a practical that could even be turned into an internal assessment (IB) with a bit of work.

How many times have you walked onto another room and realised you have no idea why you are there?! Yes, this is the commonly experienced doorway effect and this brilliant youtube video from the excellent SciShowPsych explains all:

A great potential practical for A Level and IB students alike

Why not use this to teach about the ‘circle of science‘, that is the way that casual observations and playful questions can sometimes turn into important insights into the way our mind works (theory), leading to the construction of testable hypotheses, the design of elegantly simple experiments, the results of which can be used to support or refine the original theory.

This could be easily replicated in or out of school, get your students to find a shoe box and fill it with say ten different coloured objects. The students should then design a list of questions which can be asked about the objects. Participants can then be assigned to either the experimental group or the control group. The students must decide how far participants are going to walk depending on the size of the rooms available to them. The experimental group must cross a threshold while the control group walk the same distance but without crossing a threshold. The student show their participants the items in the box for a standardised amount of time, before asking them to seal up the box and move to their new location. Again the students can decide how long they want their participant to wait before the recall stage and whether they would like them to carry out any form of distractor task. Next, they ask their questions and score the answers, again some creativity on the students part about how the answers should be scored will introduce some critical thinking.

Having completed the design stage, students need to create a statement to gain informed consent from their participants, including right to withdraw and some thinking around potential for harm – make sure there are no tripping hazards ;)! Withholding the hypotheses until the end is obviously important in this study and therefore a full debrief will also be required. Once the students have gained informed consent from their participants they can start their data collection, which can be followed up with some simple stats including means, standard deviations and potentially a Mann Whitney U test, assuming independent measures design was used.

Read more about the original study here:

Or check out the abstract of the original paper here:


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