The first step to retaining a good memory as we age is to believe that it is possible do so. People who feel that they could control their memory are more likely to use mnemonic strategies to retain the same, despite the time factor.
The researchers analyzed the link between a sense of control and actual cognitive function in over 335 adults, aged between 21 and 83 years. The study participants were required to recall a set of 30 words that could be classified into different categories such as fruit or flower types. Surprisingly, middle aged and older adults who had trained their mind that they would be able to recall had enhanced recall performance and were able to categorize better.
From the study, it was found that even young people had difficulties in memory performance, which they attributed to distraction or other similar external factors. On the contrary, older adults typically tend to attribute their forgetfulness to the aging process or even a sign of Alzheimer's disease, ending up in anxiety and despair.
Memory lapses associated with aging can pose a challenge to an individual's sense of control. It is true that decline in memory and cognitive function is an inevitable part of aging. It worst cases, such a belief can lead to anxiety and distress. More importantly, it can prevent one from engaging in strategies that can actually improve memory function.
Individuals who do not use appropriate strategies for remembering things easily often have the misconception that nothing can be done to boost the memory. The result of this study highlight that a self-perception of memory control could be used as a memory enhancement tool during middle age or even later.
'One's sense of control is both a precursor and a consequence of age-related losses in memory. Our study shows that the more you believe there are things you can do to remember information, the more likely you will be to use effort and adaptive strategies and to allocate resources effectively, and the less you will worry about forgetting,' concluded Margie Lachman, Professor of Psychology, Brandeis University.