While older adults typically show a variety of memory impairments, goals and motivation can influence what people remember, and can help older adults remember important information. The proposed research examines how goals can motivate and improve memory in older adults, through the strategic focus on selectively remembering both objectively and subjectively important information. This is examined by having younger and older adults remember information based on the value or importance of the information, and value or level of importance can differ based on one's goals. We test this by having younger and older adults rate how important certain to-be-remembered units of information are to remember for a task (e.g., when packing for a trip) or how interested they are in the information (e.g., when learning answers to novel trivia questions), to determine if later memory is related to ratings of importance and interest, and if age-differences in memory performance are reduced for important information. We also examine how older adults'memory and selective processing is enhanced when they are asked to communicate interesting or important information to another individual, suggesting that social communication can facilitate and enhance memory for important information. We then test how older adults use financial and social information to guide, and sometimes selectively bias, memory for faces associated with monetary rewards/losses, and social status. We extend this work to a practical and theoretically-guided translational situation, such as remembering critical side effects of medications, and using strategies to remember the positive and negative effects of taking the medication. The findings have implications for financial decision-making, planning for retirement as well as monitoring and maintaining good health when taking medications. Taken together, the proposed research has the potential to enhance the quality of life and independence of older adults by providing an efficient goal-based strategy to remember important information.

Public Health Relevance

Old age can lead to a variety of changes and declines in memory, but older adults may be able to selectively remember important information in certain situations. The proposed research examines how older adults can successful remember important information, and how this ability can lead to efficient memory when remembering important financial and health-related information (such as the critical side effects of a medication). The findings have the potential to enhance the quality of life and independence of older adults by providing a goal-based strategy to remember important information.

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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University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Arts and Sciences
Los Angeles
United States
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Friedman, Michael C; McGillivray, Shannon; Murayama, Kou et al. (2015) Memory for medication side effects in younger and older adults: the role of subjective and objective importance. Mem Cognit 43:206-15
Noh, Sharon M; Yan, Veronica X; Vendetti, Michael S et al. (2014) Multilevel induction of categories: venomous snakes hijack the learning of lower category levels. Psychol Sci 25:1592-9