We’ve all had those moments of panic: “I can’t find my keys anywhere!”
While it can be incredibly frustrating, and only seems to happen when we are in a rush, staying calm is the best way to help you locate them.
Psychology Can Help You Find Lost Keys!
When trying to find a lost item, such as your keys, there are certain “dos and don’ts” that may help your search:
- Don’t waste time looking in places you already know the missing object is not.
- Do stay calm and search on. Try not to become panicked or angry, which only leads to frantic, unfocused searching.
- Do look for the item where it’s supposed to be. Sometimes objects undergo “domestic drift” in which wherever they were left when last used; they tend to travel no more than 18 inches from their original location,
- Do be disciplined in your search. Once you have thoroughly searched an area and ruled it out, don’t waste time returning to it.
- Do focus on cluttered areas. Researchers have found that almost half of the eye movements were directed to the easy side, even though it was clear that the target was not there.
- Do retrace your steps. The key to finding your keys or other misplaced items, is forming a mental image of what you were doing or feeling when you last saw the missing item. Try to recreate as rich an experience as possible. Think about the location, what you were doing, the time of day, who else was there, your mental state and any other details. Engaging in this process, called “context reinstatement”, can help you recall details that might otherwise be inaccessible.
- Do beware of mind tricks. Don’t let a false memory take you off the trail.
- Do use open-ended questions. If two people are searching, use open-ended instead of leading questions. For example, ask: “When did you last see the missing item?” instead of “Remember? We were together in the car when we last saw it.”
- Do use prevention strategies. One way to keep from losing things is to get in the habit of always putting them in the same place. When we lose things that are not part of our daily routine, such as important papers, it often happens because we are trying to keep them safe or private. So, put a neon Post-it on important papers; a big, colourful bell-type key chain toggle on your keys; and keep the ringer on your phone switched on.
- Do remember that forgetting is normal. As we get into our 40s and 50s, our memories can be challenged by the multitasking brought on by being at the peak of our professional careers and caring for children or parents. It helps to remember that forgetting is hard-wired into our brains as part of our evolution, and that faulty memory is not a sign of lower intelligence.
For more help and assistance with any memory issues (such as not being able to find your keys!), a good psychologist can assist you with education on the topic, and coping strategies needed to decrease potential anxiety over what may well be normal forgetting.
Author: Dr David Wells, B Psych (Hons), Dip Prof Couns, D Psych (Clin Geropsychology).
David is a Clinical Psychologist, with a keen interest in couples counselling. He strives to provide a safe environment for his clients to explore their issues and, with assistance, develop new techniques which will help them change their unproductive behaviours. The aim is to have a happier life that assists people to reach their relationship, personal and life goals.
Dr David Wells is currently on extended leave. If you would like to book with an alternative clinician with similar expertise, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.