Do you suffer from “destination amnesia”?

Have you ever heard yourself saying: “I’m sure I told you that already”?

Older adults are more likely to forget who they’ve shared information with, according to a new study led by Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute.

It’s the kind of memory faux pas that can lead to awkward or embarrassing social situations and even miscommunication at work or in the doctor’s office. Ironically, after making these memory errors older adults remain highly confident in their false beliefs.

“What we’ve found is that older adults tend to experience more destination amnesia than younger adults,” said Baycrest cognitive scientist, Dr. Nigel Gopie, who led the study with internationally-renowned experts in memory and attention at Baycrest, Drs. Fergus Craik and Lynn Hasher.

“Destination amnesia is characterized by falsely believing you’ve told someone something, such as believing you’ve told your daughter about needing a ride to an appointment, when you actually had told a neighbour,” explains Dr. Gopie.

Although the study found that recalling who you told something to is vulnerable to age-related decline the ability to recall which person told you what is not as affected.

Why are older adults more prone to destination memory failures?

According to Dr. Gopie, “the ability to focus and pay attention declines with age, so older adults use up most of their attention resources on the telling of information and don’t properly encode the context (i.e. who they are speaking to) for later recall, whereas full attention can be paid to the person and their story when we are listening to someone (source memory).”

If you find that you often forget with whom you shared information, Dr. Gopie recommends these tips:

  • Refocus attention on the person that you’re talking to by inserting their name when you tell them things (“James, you wouldn’t believe the trouble I had with…”).
  • Integrate them into the story (“remember the problems you had at the dry cleaner, Sam? It happened to me. Except, unlike in your case, I had…”).
  • Use the tactic salespeople often use by referring to customers by name to create a “friendlier” selling situation and to help them remember with whom they have made a particular deal. They wouldn’t want to later give George the better deal than the one they had verbally made with John.

To support Baycrest and exciting initiatives, DONATE ONLINE or call the donations line at 416-785-2875 or 1-800-223-2087.