Testing the theory that an older adult might believe the popular stereotype that age affects memory, researchers at the Cognitive Aging and Memory Lab at Tufts University investigated by use of simple wordplay with a panel of seniors and younger adults.
In a study published online in Psychological Science, the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the researchers presented the panel of subjects with a list of semantically related words such as “night,” “tired,” “bed” and “rest.” While both age groups falsely placed “sleep” on that list, the false memory occurred more often with the older adults.
“We investigated whether we could reduce this age difference in false memory susceptibility by reducing the negative stereotypes of aging,” researchers said.
According to the researchers, older adults generally believe that their memories are impaired because of age. To test the validity of this assumption, two mixed-age groups were assembled. One group was told that the words they would be presented with were to test memory. The second group was told that the words were a language-based test, with a de-emphasis on memory.
The results showed that when older adults were told that they would perform as well as the younger group members, they demonstrated less false memory susceptibility than the older adults who were told that aging affects memory.