Many middle-aged and older adults believe as they age that memory declines are inevitable and there is little that can be done. Such beliefs of low self-efficacy and limited control over memory aging are associated with poorer performance on a wide range of memory tasks, especially among older adults. The objective of this research program is to learn more about how low control beliefs operate as a risk factor for poor memory by considering the psychological and physiological pathways whereby control beliefs and performance are related. This will be accomplished by using short-term longitudinal designs to examine strategy use, anxiety, stress reactivity and arousal as mediators. Episodic and working memory along with memory control beliefs will be assessed in adults ages 25 to 85. Participants will be drawn from a representative sample of the Greater Boston area and tested in their homes.
For Aim 1, we will extend past work to consider multiple indicators of anxiety, including self-reports and neuroendocrine (cortisol) and autonomic (heart rate) system responses of stress and arousal, which can have a short- term impact and long-term damage on cognitive and physical well-being. We also will examine memory- related stress in relation to age and the use of adaptive compensatory memory strategies. It is predicted that a sense of control over memory protects older adults from disruptive anxiety and rumination and promotes persistence in the face of challenging memory tasks. There is increasing evidence that variability in functioning is associated with important aging-related outcomes.
For Aim 2, we will extend work on individual differences in the sense of control to examine short-term intraindividual variability in control beliefs in relation to age and intraindividual variability in stress and memory. Short-term fluctuations in control may reflect vulnerability rather than resilience in the face of memory challenges. Variability in control is expected to be positively associated with age and stress and inversely related to memory performance.
In Aim 3 we expand the focus on age differences in intraindividual changes to the everyday context using a daily diary approach. It is expected that on days when adults feel more in control of their lives they will use more adaptive memory aids and strategies, experience less stress, and have fewer memory problems. Memory problems in later life can lead to anxiety and distress, but there are things that can be done to compensate. A focus on beliefs about controllability, the role of anxiety, and use of compensatory strategies for memory declines provides a useful framework for advancing our understanding of adaptive beliefs and behaviors for successful aging. Narrative: Good memory functioning is critical in everyday life (e.g., taking medications, remembering appointments) to maintain health, well-being, and independence. This research can identify modifiable beliefs and behaviors that are tied to poor memory and reduced functioning in instrumental activities for daily living. The results can be used to develop more effective interventions to reduce distress, impairment and dependence, enhance control beliefs and memory, and improve everyday functioning in later life.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Social Psychology, Personality and Interpersonal Processes Study Section (SPIP)
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King, Jonathan W
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Brandeis University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Hahn, Elizabeth A; Lachman, Margie E (2015) Everyday experiences of memory problems and control: the adaptive role of selective optimization with compensation in the context of memory decline. Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn 22:25-41
Rickenbach, Elizabeth Hahn; Almeida, David M; Seeman, Teresa E et al. (2014) Daily stress magnifies the association between cognitive decline and everyday memory problems: an integration of longitudinal and diary methods. Psychol Aging 29:852-62
Turiano, Nicholas A; Chapman, Benjamin P; Agrigoroaei, Stefan et al. (2014) Perceived control reduces mortality risk at low, not high, education levels. Health Psychol 33:883-90
Graham, Eileen K; Lachman, Margie E (2014) Personality Traits, Facets and Cognitive Performance: Age Differences in Their Relations. Pers Individ Dif 59:89-95
Agrigoroaei, Stefan; Polito, Michael; Lee, Angela et al. (2013) Cortisol response to challenge involving low controllability: the role of control beliefs and age. Biol Psychol 93:138-42
Agrigoroaei, Stefan; Neupert, Shevaun D; Lachman, Margie E (2013) Maintaining a Sense of Control in the Context of Cognitive Challenge: Greater Stability in Control Beliefs Benefits Working Memory. GeroPsych (Bern) 26:45-49
Lachman, Margie E; Agrigoroaei, Stefan (2012) Low perceived control as a risk factor for episodic memory: the mediational role of anxiety and task interference. Mem Cognit 40:287-96
Agrigoroaei, Stefan; Lachman, Margie E (2011) Cognitive functioning in midlife and old age: combined effects of psychosocial and behavioral factors. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 66 Suppl 1:i130-40
Lachman, Margie E; Agrigoroaei, Stefan (2010) Promoting functional health in midlife and old age: long-term protective effects of control beliefs, social support, and physical exercise. PLoS One 5:e13297
Lachman, Margie E; Agrigoroaei, Stefan; Murphy, Chandra et al. (2010) Frequent cognitive activity compensates for education differences in episodic memory. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry 18:4-10

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