Why do we go blank?

Why do we go blank?

Being unable to continue with our speech before a large number of people or simply being blocked without knowing how to give free rein to our thoughts at a given time because we have left blank is very common. But why do we go blank? What is behind this opaque filter that gives us those very committed moments of pause? Let's go deeper into it.


  • 1 The blank mind
  • 2 The influence of stress
  • 3 Stay blank and working memory
  • 4 What to do when we go blank?

Blank mind

The mental emptiness that arises when we go blank has its explanation. For this we must bear in mind that all our mental activity has to do with memory and more specifically with memories. In this way, memory is not only a store where we accumulate the information we receive, but it is also a distributor of this information every time we need it in the form of memories and associations.

So, The phenomenon of being blank is a sign that there is a crisis in the functioning of our memory. For some reason, our memories have been temporarily inaccessible due to the existence of a blockage in the route that is normally set in motion when it is intended to access the information we have stored.

The influence of stress

Many times, One of the obstacles that appears when accessing the information we have stored is the emotional tension caused by the experience of anxiety or stress. Specifically because of the neurochemical reaction that occurs under these conditions and that affects the entire nervous system and causes the release of hormones in our body.

CWhen we feel stressed, the adrenal glands in our kidneys secrete glucocorticoids, the hormones responsible for the inability to remember at this time and to reduce access to the information we have stored for its impact on the functioning of the hippocampus (the part of the brain related to declarative memory).

Thus, the reason there is for our body to begin to function in this way is found in the feeling of stress activates a state of alert that quickly assimilates what we are living as a dangerous situation. So it prepares us to react and avoid damage, but in exchange for lowering our level of reasoning and creativity which is what actually allows us to express ourselves in a much more grounded way, thus producing the blockade.

Although we cannot forget that remaining blank in other cases is associated with aging and the appearance of a neurodegenerative disease.

Go blank and work memory

According to a study by psychologists at the University of Chicagopeople who have a better memory are more likely to go blank, especially when they are under pressure. So if a person often goes blank it may be because he has excellent work memory.

Working memory is the set of processes that allow us to temporarily store and manipulate information to perform complex cognitive tasks such as language comprehension, mathematical skills, learning, reading or reasoning.

So, Some people have a better working memory than others. In other words, it is as if they had an extra facilitator that allows them to carry out mental juggling; since the working memory is responsible for storing data for a short period of time, while we use them to perform other things. So people who have a better working memory have this facilitator that allows them to perform tasks successfully but when they are distracted by the pressure they are subjected to, despite trusting and having this mechanism they have a mental block by the overhead they experience and go blank.

What to do when we go blank?

The best strategy for when we go blank is to stay relaxed and keep stress controlled.So practicing some relaxation techniques or breathing control before situations that we know can make us nervous is ideal. This will reduce our levels of stress and anxiety and increase our attention self-control to avoid overloading ourselves.

Too It is advisable not to be too critical of ourselves especially when we have to present a presentation in public or we are doing an exam, since our brain with the intention of resetting it can go blank.


Baddeley, A. (1986)Working memory. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-852133-2.

Chauveau, F. et. Al. (2010) Rapid stress-induced corticosterone rise in the hippocampus reverses serial memory retrieval pattern.Hippocampus; 20(1):196-207.

Sattizahn, J. R. et. Al. (2016) A Closer Look at Who "Chokes Under Pressure".Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition; 5(4): 470-477.

Baddeley, A. D., & Hitch, G. (1974). Working memoryPsychology of Learning and Motivation, 8, 47-89.