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Study examines how couples' collaborative dialogue may assist in a spouse's memory
Date:8/29/2011

AMES, Iowa -- Effective memory is a key ability for independent living in later life, and a new Iowa State University study is among the first to report that social partners can help extend memory. The study also found that the collaboration that helps middle-aged couples with memory tasks doesn't seem to be as effective for couples older than 70.

Jennifer Margrett, an assistant professor in human development and family studies, led the study, titled "Examining Collaborative Dialogue Among Couples: A Window Into Prospective Memory Processes." Psychological researchers Celinda Reese-Melancon from Oklahoma State University and Peter Rendell from Australian Catholic University collaborated with Margrett on the study, which was posted online by the Journal of Psychology and will be published in a special issue on prospective memory. They also presented two posters on their results earlier this month at the American Psychological Association conference in Boston, Mass.

The researchers found that spouses do rely on each other as external memory aids. However, the extent to which this strategy is effective depends on how reliable the partner's memory is, and that reliability changes with age for most people.

"In my lab we found that overall, collaboration is usually very helpful on a variety of cognitive tasks, but it's sort of a mixed bag in this recent study, which focuses on memory tasks," Margrett said. "When you think about memory, if I ask you to remember something, you'll get on a roll, think of one thing, and then another thing should come. But if you have a partner who's interrupting you, interjecting, and perhaps leading you down a 'garden path,' that can definitely interfere in memory. So you may have done better on the memory path working alone than you did with a partner.

"For our middle-aged couples in this pilot study, they definitely seemed to fill in the [memory] gaps more effectively than our older couples did,"
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Contact: Mike Ferlazzo
ferlazzo@iastate.edu
515-294-8986
Iowa State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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