Time frame, problem specificity, and framing: the implicit structures of questions about memory in older adults

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3 Scopus citations


Objective: Self-reported memory complaints in older adults are common and may be an early indicator of future cognitive decline or dementia. However, there is wide variety in self-reported memory items that lack consensus on what they intend to measure. This study explored the perspectives of older adults on items currently used to assess self-reported memory. Method: A convenience sample of community dwelling older adults (n = 51) completed a free card sorting task of 16 commonly used items assessing self-reports of memory problems. Multidimensional scaling (MDS) was used to extract dimensions that describe the similarities among the self-reported items. Visual maps were created to interpret the content of each dimension and validity of the dimensions was checked using the labels provided by the participants. Results: Three underlying dimensions describing the items were identified: time frame, problem specificity, and framing. These dimensions were supported by participant provided labels. Conclusion: The three identified dimensions suggest that the commonly used self-reported memory items assess substantively different aspects of the same broad concept. To avoid inconsistencies in assessing self-reported memory problems in older adults, we recommend researchers specify the aspects of memory problems that they are interested in and link their items to those aspects. In addition, they should develop items that are a good match to their research question rather than simply selecting items that are commonly used or appear to have high face validity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-62
Number of pages7
JournalAging and Mental Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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