A Mills College psychology professor and three psychology majors are conducting a study to look at the effects of aging on memory.
Their Student News ad reads: “The Mills Cognition Lab (MCL) is currently conducting a study on aging and cognition and would like to recruit young and older adults to participate in our study.” Dr. Christine Chung, assistant professor in the psychology department, is heading up the study. Chung is interested in how memory, specifically emotional memory, changes throughout a person’s lifespan. The current study is reaching out to young people, though according to Chung, it will seek to branch out into other age groups in the future.
The idea of emotional memory studies may seem off-putting and potentially triggering to some, but Chung assures that by emotional memory she means both negative and positive and that not only is all the information kept disclosed, and that volunteers may opt-out at any time they feel uncomfortable, but also that people involved thus far have not reported any discomfort or complaints with the questions asked.
Though it raises the question of discomfort, Chung’s focus of emotional memory is specifically important. “We know currently that memory decreases with age. But not every part of memory decreases. Emotional memory is one of the parts of memory that actually increases with age, instead of decreasing,” Chung said.
Though the Cognition Lab was set up so Chung, a new professor at Mills, could do research for publications, Chung reports that the Cognition Lab will continue through upcoming years with the help of student volunteers within the psychology
Since its implementation last spring, the Cognition Lab has had 40 to 50 volunteers for study. Unsurprisingly, however, the study on cognitive memory is still missing an integral part: men and older women.
“Having only women has been an obstacle for research statistics,” Chung said. “I do want a sample for both men and women, but it’s been a challenge to get men involved.”
From the outside, the solution seems simple. Get the UC Berkeley campus involved. Chung reports that this is not as easy as it seems. It’s difficult to take the study over to Berkeley because of transportation problems; students have difficulties getting over to Mills and because of that, it’s difficult to offer just ten dollars for compensation. Nevertheless, Chung is branching out into homes for the elderly to find the other missing element in her study.
Currently, however, Mills students are reporting overall positive experiences with their participation. “It was pretty amusing. The number recitation was harder than I had expected. The images made me think for sometime after,” sophomore Veronica Beaty said. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the negative experiences of her life that Beaty felt reactions to. “Writing about happy moments in my life made me self-conscious,” she said.