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As you age, your memory may start to slip. But studies at the University of Toronto have identified an easy trick to increase your brain power and strengthen your ability to remember.
The key, according to this research, is to keep guessing and making mistakes when trying to remember. If you guess almost correctly about what you are trying to remember, you sharpen your memory in the long run.
“Making random guesses does not appear to benefit later memory for the right answer, but near-miss guesses act as stepping stones for retrieval of the correct information – and this benefit is seen in younger and older adults,” says researcher Andrée-Ann Cyr,
Previously, scientists believed that when older people make memory mistakes it complicates their ability to retain their intellectual abilities. But Cyr’s studies indicate the opposite – that trial and error helps in memory retention.
Cyr’s investigations of memory show that when you make a guess that is conceptually close to what you are trying to remember, that enhances your consequent capability of calling it to mind.
For example, when you are trying to recall the word rose in a word test, if you initially guess the answer is another flower like tulip or daffodil before finally coming to the word rose, in a later effort to recall “rose” your memory will perform better than if you had struggled without guessing.
“These results have profound clinical and practical implications. They turn traditional views of best practices in memory rehabilitation for healthy seniors on their head by demonstrating that making the right kind of errors can be beneficial. They also provide great hope for lifelong learning and guidance for how seniors should study,” adds researcher Nicole Anderson.