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Two-Headed Memories: Collaboration gives recall lift to elderly

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11:25am, September 29, 2004

Older adults often find that their memories betray them. A team of Canadian psychologists, led by Michael Ross of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, offers this advice to elderly individuals with memory concerns: Don't go it alone.

Talking about recent memories with someone else, such as a spouse, works like a cognitive vacuum cleaner, in Ross' view. It sucks up many mistakes that litter memory, leaving behind a relatively clean core of accurately recalled information.

"Collaboration could help to reduce the frequency of older people's false recall in many everyday contexts," Ross says. Few researchers have examined collaborative remembering (SN: 9/13/97, p. 174).

Ross and his coworkers devised two memory tasks for 59 married couples, ages 68 to 78. The researchers randomly assigned 29 couples to collaborate on their choices and 30 to deliberate individually.

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