Posted by & filed under Basic Cognitive Functions In Aging: Information Processing Attention Memory, Higher-Order Cognitive Functions in Aging, Memory, Sensation-Perception.

Description: Imagine you are chatting with one of your grandparents about a trip you took with them last summer and you are reminiscing about a stop you made at a bakery, and they are saying they still remember the taste of the peanut butter cookie they had while you were there. In thinking about that event, you are certain that your grandparent actually had a chocolate chip cookie. You wonder if their memory failure is a symptom of possible more serious memory issues. How worried should you be? Think a bit about that and then read the article linked below to see if it offers you confirmation of your new concerns or reassurance that all is likely quite well with your grand parent’s memory.

Source: Misremembering might actually be a sign your memory is working optimally, Robert Jacobs, The Conversation.

Date: November 19, 2021

Image by Ylanite from Pixabay

Article Link:

So, the fact that your grandparent had a cookie they very much enjoyed at the bakery stop last summer is the gist of the memory, and likely the most important part of that even for them. As such, the author of the linked article suggests, the fact that the cookie they actually had was really different that what they recall is not really important and their memory may be functioning just fine. A good thing to keep in mind as you think about how we think and how our memory works is that we are limited, as in, the amount and breadth of information that we can take in or call up from memory and keep in mind as we try to solve problems is limited and so while we may make optimal decisions they may not be perfect decisions due to the constraints on our cognitive and memory systems. The type of cookie was perhaps NOT the important part of the memory your grandparent had of the enjoyable bakery visit they had with you last summer and that is not only fine, it is likely optimal from a memory perspective.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Is forgetting details of past events a sign of age-related memory deterioration?
  2. What is the gist of a past event and how is it different from the details of that event?
  3. Explain why it might not just be fine that your grandparent got the cookie type wrong in their memory but that it might actually suggest their memory is working optimally?

References (Read Further):

Lieder, F., & Griffiths, T. L. (2020). Resource-rational analysis: Understanding human cognition as the optimal use of limited computational resources. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 43. Link

Sims, C. R., Jacobs, R. A., & Knill, D. C. (2012). An ideal observer analysis of visual working memory. Psychological review, 119(4), 807. Link

Hayhoe, M. M., Bensinger, D. G., & Ballard, D. H. (1998). Task constraints in visual working memory. Vision research, 38(1), 125-137. Link

Bates, C. J., & Jacobs, R. A. (2020). Efficient data compression in perception and perceptual memory. Psychological review, 127(5), 891. Link

Gershman, S. J. (2021). Resource-rational decision making Rahul Bhui, Lucy Lai 2 and Samuel J Gershman 3, 4. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 41, 15-21. Link

Ruel, A., Devine, S., & Eppinger, B. (2021). Resource‐rational approach to meta‐control problems across the lifespan. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 12(5), e1556. Link

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