Transactive Memory Supports for Those Difficult to Recall Items

The verbosely titled blog “If We Know So Much More When We Are Older, Why Do We Have Difficulty Recalling and More Importantly, What Can Be Done About It”, explained that it is agreed that older people have more crystallized knowledge. Crystallized intelligence consists of your general storehouse of knowledge and facts. I have found as I age that the instances in which I try to recall something, but cannot retrieve it have been increasing. So how is it that although we have more knowledge, it is more difficult to access? As was explained in that previous blog, there is a distinction between what is available in memory and what can be accessed at any given time. So, yes, as we age more information becomes available in memory. One could argue that the difficulty is accessing this information is due to there being a greater mass of information to retrieve it from. Although this might be true to a certain extent, it is also likely that the act of retrieving also slows down and becomes more difficult at certain times. This certainly seems to be true in my case. The question is what to do about it?

That blog and the related blog, “Recalling Information that is Difficult to Remember,” offered a variety of techniques and strategies for recalling these items. This blog suggests how transactive memory can further facilitate this process, by enlisting the aid of others. Remember that fellow humans can serve as sources of transactive memory, and engaging them can be an enjoyable activity My wife and I make a practice of doing this. Whenever one of us tries to remember something, the name of an actor or old acquaintance, for example, and fails, that one will challenge the other to remember it. If the other party remembers it, then the problem is solved, but see the warning later in this blog. Otherwise the challenge continues. Both of us will be using the strategies and techniques discussed in the aforementioned blog. Mind you, we do get on with our lives, but the activity will continue, sometimes across days. I believe that these memory searches are healthy to the brain because unused brain circuits are being reactivated in the search for this information. So these failed retrieval attempts, although frustrating, can still be beneficial. And in most cases, these attempts eventually prove successful.

I strongly recommend this activity to other couples. And I think it can be expanded to groups of friends with like interests. These can be trivia games that can extend for days and, given today’s technology, over great distances. The social activity is beneficial in itself.

But what to do when failure persists. Here one can switch to the technology mode of transactive memory and search for the items on the internet (sure libraries and older technology are also acceptable). So technology can serve as a backup. Should the information be of special importance, it is always advisable to check your, your partner’s or your group’s recall. Biological memory is fallible. Of course, technology is also fallible, but it is always advisable to check information against multiple sources.


© Douglas Griffith and, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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