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Seminar Abstract

What are the active ingredients of successful shared remembering?

Speaker : Dr Celia Harris, Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University.
Date : 9th of October 2018, 12:00PM until 1:00PM
Location : Australian Hearing Hub, 3.610, Macquarie University.

    Wife: And we went to two shows, can you remember what they were called? Husband: We did. One was a musical, or were they both? I don’t … no…one… W: John Hanson was in it. H: Desert Song. W: Desert Song, that’s it, I couldn’t remember what it was called, but yes, I knew John Hanson was in it. In this deceptively simple exchange, in which an older couple – married for 40 years – remember their honeymoon, we see the mundane but potentially powerful processes that can cue and facilitate memory when we remember with other people. In ongoing research, I have demonstrated that memory benefits are possible when older couples reminisce together, but even in these highly intimate and experienced groups, not all collaborative remembering is successful. There have been recent suggestions that collaborative remembering may have therapeutic value in supporting memory for those who need it. But so far, we don’t know what “active ingredients” of collaboration drive memory benefits in older couples: is it their shared history, their intimacy, their need for cognitive support, their skill and practice at reminiscing together, or some combination of these? Each of these factors needs to be clearly identified and evaluated before this promising empirical research can be translated into effective therapy. In this talk, I discuss a range of possible active ingredients contributing to benefits of shared remembering; different factors that may underlie the heterogeneous outcomes of group remembering. I sketch early findings from across a series of experiments in which I isolate and test particular aspects of group remembering – the cues provided, the individuals within the group, and group communication processes – to determine which of these “ingredients” modulate group remembering success.

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