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Older adults experience 'destination amnesia'
Date:8/30/2010

Toronto, Canada I'm sure I told you that already!

Older adults are more likely to have destination memory failures forgetting who they've shared or not shared information with, according to a new study led by Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute.

It's the kind of memory faux pas that can lead to awkward or embarrassing social situations and even miscommunication in the doctor's office. Ironically, after making these memory errors older adults remain highly confident in their false beliefs.

The study appears online, ahead of print publication, in the Online First Section of Psychology and Aging.

"What we've found is that older adults tend to experience more destination amnesia than younger adults," said lead investigator and cognitive scientist Dr. Nigel Gopie, who led the study with internationally-renowned experts in memory and attention, Drs. Fergus Craik and Lynn Hasher.

"Destination amnesia is characterized by falsely believing you've told someone something, such as believing you've told your daughter about needing a ride to an appointment, when you actually had told a neighbour."

Why are older adults more prone to destination memory failures? The ability to focus and pay attention declines with age, so older adults use up most of their attentional resources on the telling of information and don't properly encode the context (ie. who they are speaking to) for later recall.

"Older adults are additionally highly confident, compared to younger adults, that they have never told people particular things when they actually had," added Dr. Gopie. "This over-confidence presumably causes older adults to repeat information to people."

A critical finding in the study is that destination memory is more vulnerable to age-related decline than source memory. Source memory is the ability to recall which person told you certain information.

In the research, 40 students from the
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Contact: Kelly Connelly
kconnelly@baycrest.org
416-785-2432
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
Source:Eurekalert

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