Lack of imagination in older adults linked to declining memory

Jan 07, 2008

Most children are able to imagine their future selves as astronauts, politicians or even superheroes; however, many older adults find it difficult to recollect past events, let alone generate new ones. A new Harvard University study reveals that the ability of older adults to form imaginary scenarios is linked to their ability to recall detailed memories.

According to the study, episodic memory, which represents our personal memories of past experiences, “allows individuals to project themselves both backward and forward in subjective time.”

Therefore, in order to create imagined future events, the individual must be able to remember the details of previously experienced ones extract various details and put them together to create an imaginary event, a process known as the constructive-episodic-simulation.

Harvard psychologists Donna Rose Addis, Alana Wong and Daniel Schacter supported the hypothesis using an adapted version of the Autobiographical Interview in which young and older participants responded to randomly selected cue words with past and future scenarios.

When compared with young adults, the researchers found that the older adults displayed a significant reduction in the use of internal episodic details to describe both past memories and imagined future events.

The results of the study, which appear in the January 2008 issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, not only reveal that there is a link between age-related memory deficits and future planning in older adults, but raise questions concerning the involvement of other types of memory, as well.

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Explore further: Middle-seat kid far from windows but closer to success

Related Stories

A peek at the secret life of pandas

Mar 27, 2015

Reclusive giant pandas fascinate the world, yet precious little is known about how they spend their time in the Chinese bamboo forests. Until now.

Teens from single-parent families leave school earlier

Feb 20, 2015

A new study from researchers at New York University, the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Chicago finds that that by the age of 24, individuals who live in single-parent families as teens received fewer ...

Recommended for you

Middle-seat kid far from windows but closer to success

1 minute ago

Reports have been coming in about a growing-up study to explain what types of people enjoy success in adult life. The study shows that being a middle-seat child may contribute to success in later years.

Exploring mental health through Kendrick Lamar's lyrics

May 01, 2015

Kendrick Lamar's major-label debut album good kid m.A.A.d. city, released in October 2012, provides rich narratives relating to important mental health themes, including addiction, depression and stress resilience, according ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.