Memory in Context
• What age differences are there in prospective memory?
• What are some factors that help preserve memory as we grow older?
yler, an elderly man of 80, has been exercising his memory abilities since he reached his 60th birthday. He has made sure to read voraciously, has done his crossword puzzles religiously, and has kept up on current events. At a recent family gathering, it was quite evident that such behavior paid off. In a game of
trivial pursuit, he was the ultimate winner. However, when his grandson told him nonstop about a car he wanted to buy, Tyler later had trouble recalling all of the details.
As noted at the beginning of this chapter, memory is so integral to our everyday life that we take it for granted. In the case of Tyler, using his memory of previously studied knowledge was extremely important in participating in family games. However, he still had trouble remembering the details of recently learned information. This difference in memory ability has been the focus of a proliferation of research on age differences in memory in context or how memory operates in everyday life (Hertzog & Dunlosky, 1996; Park & Brown, 2001). This research is extremely important for three reasons. First, it may shed some light on the generalizability of findings based on laboratory tasks such as word-list recall. Second, new or alternative variables that affect performance could be uncovered, for example, factors that enhance memory functioning in older adults could be identified. Third, research on everyday memory may force us to reconceptualize memory itself.