Aging and Reliance on Memory-based Heuristics (2014-2015)

Older adults are often considered vulnerable consumers, targeted by political ads, financial requests and other sales pitches. This project team evaluated the truth of this common belief, and analyzed the role that memory plays in these kinds of everyday situations. While the role of memory may not seem obvious at first glance, much research has shown that college students rely on memory-based shortcuts when making decisions about a range of attributes including truth and likeability. For example, memory might play a role when one is bombarded with similar messages from a politician or cars salesperson. Many lab studies have shown that college students are more likely to believe that a claim is true if they have heard it repeatedly, because past experience has taught them that truths are more likely to be encountered repeatedly than falsehoods. Thus the politician and the car salesperson who repeat themselves are more likely to be judged as believable, even if what they are stating is false. Because many memory abilities decline with age, it is especially interesting to investigate these issues with older adults.

The team developed, implemented and analyzed a series of behavioral experiments. Team members recruited and tested older adults from the community and worked to develop online methods for data collection. This project brought together consumer psychology, cognition and gerontology to inform our understanding of how memory changes with age in healthy older adults, and contribute to our understanding of age-associated memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.


Summer 2014 – Spring 2015

Team Outcomes

Elizabeth Marsh, Exploring the Potential of Essay Testing for Improving Memory and Learning ($1,189,180 grant awarded from the Department of Education, 2014)

Heuristics for Judging Truth (poster by Min Tong Cai, Sophie Alman, Nadia M. Brashier, Hillary G. Mullet, Elizabeth J. Marsh)

Repeating Is Believing: Does Knowledge Protect Us? (document by Elizabeth Marsh, Gavan Fitzsimons, Nadia Brashier, Sophie Alman, Tannya Cai, Mack Chandler)

Supporting Aging Memory: The Use and Benefits of External Aids (document by Elizabeth Marsh, Gavan Fitzsimons, Nadia Brashier, Sophie Alman, Tannya Cai, Mack Chandler)


Nadia Brashier, Ph.D.

Team Leaders

  • Gavan Fitzsimons, Fuqua School of Business
  • Elizabeth Marsh, Arts & Sciences-Psychology and Neuroscience

/graduate Team Members

  • Nadia Brashier, Psychology-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Sophie Alman, Psychology (AB)
  • Min Tong Cai, Biology (BS), Economics (BS2)
  • Edward Chandler, Economics (BS), Psychology (AB2)