Where You Should Start Looking For Your Lost Keys

Where You Should Start Looking For Your Lost Keys

If you’ve lost your keys, you might think it’s best to search in the most obvious, open areas before moving on to more cluttered areas. But a recent study suggests our peripheral vision is better than we think, and being so thorough while searching might actually be a waste of time.

Photo by Siow.

The scavenger hunt-style study, led by Anna Nowakowska from the University of Aberdeen, and published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, found that people tend to spend a lot of time searching for objects in “easy” areas even though it provides them with no new information. Instead, Nowakowska recommends you start searching for your keys, or whatever it is you’ve lost, in areas where they’d be hard to spot. So don’t check the table, counter, bed and floor over and over.

Focus on areas that have the most clutter, and scan through locations where your peripheral vision wouldn’t be able to pick up the shape of the item so easily. Piles of clothes, messy drawers and crowded coffee tables are a better use of your time. If your keys were somewhere obvious, you would have already found them.

Start The Search For A Lost Item Right Where It Should Be

When you've lost something, you probably tend to look for it where you last saw it. You might find it faster, however, if you start your search where you know it belongs.

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Human visual search behaviour is far from ideal [Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences via Science of Us]


  • Through years of experience, I’ve come to the conclusion that lost items are always found in the last place you look. Hence that’s where you should start looking.

    • When my system is working correctly, whatever I’m looking for will be in the first place I look, but typically I find the same as you – statistically, close to 100% of the time (allowing for a margin of error), items are in the last place I look.

      Good tip to start there.

  • I always find my lost items in the first place I searched for (where I had overlooked it while searching for the first time)

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