Believe it or not, science has finally found the answer to why politicians of all shapes, sizes, and persuasions forget their campaign promises.
According to research done at the University of Notre Dame, walking through doorways causes forgetting.
We’ve all done it; walked into the next room and realized that we’d forgotten why we’d gone into the room in the first place.
The study, Walking through doorways causes forgetting: Further explorations, was published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.
Just simply walking through a doorway can cause us to forget what we were going to do.
It’s true for all of us and it’s true for politicians too. They’re people too, and they have a lot more doorways to walk through than the rest of us.
They have to walk through doorways with the people who made sizable contributions to their election campaigns. They also have to walk through the doorways to those back rooms where they make their secret deals.
Every once in a while politicians even have to walk through a doorway with someone who voted for them.
Some politicians even walk through doorways to secret apartments, and then forget their oath of office.
And all the while politicians still have to walk through the same kinds of everyday doorways that the rest of us have to walk through; kitchen doorways, living room doorways, front doorways, and even back doorways.
That gives politicians a multitude of opportunities to forget their campaign promises.
The study does not focus on politicians, but the findings definitely apply to every politician in America.
If the research is correct, all people have to do to ensure politicians keep their campaign promises is to prevent the politicians from walking through any doorways once the politicians have made a campaign promise.
The principal author of the study, Notre Dame Psychology Professor Gabriel Radvansky, says, “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away… Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.”
In other words, politicians forget their campaign promises because they compartmentalize the promises when they walk through a doorway into another room.
The research is very timely because this is an election year, and politicians at the national, state, and local levels are already making all kinds of campaign promises that they will almost certainly break if we allow them to walk through any doorways.
To eliminate that nagging problem, we either have to compartmentalize the politicians once the political campaign starts, or we have to tear out each and every doorway that the politicians could possibly walk through.
Some people suggest that it might be easier to find an honest politician, someone who would actually keep their campaign promises. But history already has shown us that is impossible.
“An honest politician is regarded as a sort of marvel, like a calf with five legs, and the news that one has appeared is commonly received with derision.”
H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Since passing through doorways is the cause of the memory lapses by the politicians, one solution would be to make it illegal for politicians to make any campaign promises except in the room where they will have to cast their legislative or executive votes.
Presidential candidates could only make campaign promises from the Oval Office. Senate candidates and candidates for the House of Representatives would only be allowed to make campaign promises from the floor of the Senate of House chambers, etc., etc., etc.
The upside to this suggestion is that it is simple. The downside is that there is no guarantee that the politicians will remember their promises if they leave the room for any reason and come back in again. Once the politician passes through a doorway, all bets are off.
It has also been suggested that we could tear out the walls and make the room big enough to contain the politicians throughout the campaign and their time in office. But this creates a problem of how you deal with privacy issues such as sleeping arrangements and bathroom privileges.
With that in mind, it might just be easier to tear out each and every doorway that the politicians could possibly walk through. Sure it would be a pain in the backside to tear out all the doors, but wouldn’t it be worth it to get honest government?
But then again, there is no guarantee that tearing out all the doors would work either. The research was limited to doorways. The research did not consider what affect climbing through windows, or crawling through holes in the wall had on politicians’ memories.
Laugh about it, shout about it
When you’ve got to choose
Every way you look at it, you lose.
Simon and Garfunkel