Trial and error learning is best for aging brains

Kevin Magna

August 24, 2011

A new report out of Canada finds that as individuals reach their senior years, they may benefit from trial-and-error learning more than younger people. The study was published in the journal Psychology and Aging.

The report goes against many studies that show that making errors while picking up new information can set back memory performance for seniors. It has often been believed that "errorless" learning is better for older adults.

"The scientific literature has traditionally embraced errorless learning for older adults," said lead researcher Andreé-Ann Cyr. "However, our study has shown that if older adults are learning material that is very conceptual, where they can make a meaningful relationship between their errors and the correct information that they are supposed to remember, in those cases, the errors can actually be quite beneficial for the learning process."

Both young and older adults participated in the study, performing cognitive memory exercises that involved a trial-and-error process.

This news may be of interest to older adults who are looking to age at home. There are several ways to stay independent as one grows older, such as investing in a medical alarm, and routinely flexing the brain muscles.  

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