I would like to give an example for it from my professional setting:

There is an ice-making machine outside my lab on top of which lies a scoop. Now, when I go there to fetch some ice, I use the scoop to put some ice in the bucket and somehow, I take the scoop along with me back to my bench, everytime which forces me to go back to the particular place again to put it back.

It becomes a comical situation at work. I am sure there would be other such commonly occurring instances in every scenario, maybe in a different way and with different things. Is there any particular word to call this action?

  • Exactly what action do you want us to find a name for? Your description might be a bit hard to visualize for some of us. Could you maybe include a picture to help us picture the situation better? Thanks.
    – Jacob
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 14:31
  • 1
    I think the technical term for your action is a capture error, but perhaps only a psychologist would use that term. You could say that you "absent-mindedly" took the scoop.
    – Thruston
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 15:33
  • @Jacob Ok. I don't have a picture with me. But I can try a different example. Just imagine a comb, kept on a dressing table. After a woman does her hair with it, she accidentally puts it in her bag and take it away when the comb was meant to be kept on the dressing table itself after use. Is this helpful? I hope so. Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 18:00

2 Answers 2


The words you are looking for is


it happens when one becomes distracted by something or is thinking about something else without concentrating at the task at hand. The rest of the movements become automatic.

You go to the ice machine
You get your ice with the scooper
You start to think of what you'll be doing next
You walk back to your lab bench without even thinking
Next thing you know, you have the ice scoop in the ice at your lab bench

That is called zoning-out or absent-mindedness


The same thing happens in public restrooms when the patron borrows the key to use the restroom and then forgets to bring it back. The next person asks for the key and the cashier or other worker must go to bathroom to fetch it. The worker decides to place a large key chain along with the key to act as a reminder. This scenario keeps repeating itself with the key chain getting bigger and bigger. It eventually morphs into a very large (large but perhaps not very sanitary) adapted object until the reminder to return it is triggered.

See Bathroom Key Chronicles< http://bathroomkeychronicles.blogspot.com/> or here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i21dtnWWIl8 for examples.

repetitive human error, fail!, oops,again

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