Is Memory Failure EVERYDAY LIFE?

How does my memory compare to yours? We can’t help but compare our own cognitive prowess with others. In the start of my memory class this fall my students and I have discussed memory improvement by way of memory training. The idea of “training” for memory might conjure up pictures of your brain lifting weights!


Sites to improve your memory, attention, and overall cognition are alive and well and ready to take your money. But, before you push a button and commit to a brain gym membership you might want to see how you are doing.

The Everyday Memory Questionnaire (revised) by Royle, J. & Lincoln, N.B. (2008) provides a relatively simple way for you to see what everyday tasks prove you are a memory master and to help indicate where you might need some “brain bulking-up.”


Below are examples of things that happen to people in everyday life. Some of them may happen frequently and some may happen very rarely. For each of the 13 items, consider how often, on average, you think each one has happened to you over the past month.

Rate each item on a scale of 0 — 4 using the following key:

Once or less in the last month = 0

More than once a month but less than once a week = 1

About once a week = 2

More than once a week or less than once a day = 3

Once or more in a day = 4

**You’ll want to keep track so that you can add all of the numbers at the end!!

1. Having to check whether you have done something that you should have done.
2. Forgetting when it was that something happened; for example, whether it was yesterday or last week.
3. Forgetting that you were told something yesterday or a few days ago, and maybe having to be reminded about it.
4. Starting to read something (a book or an article in a newspaper, or a magazine) without realizing you have already read it before.
5. Finding that a word is ‘on the tip of your tongue’. You know what it is but cannot quite find it.
6. Completely forgetting to do things you said you would do, and things you planned to do.
7. Forgetting important details of what you did or what happened to you the day before.
8. When talking to someone, forgetting what you have just said. Maybe saying
‘what was I talking about?’
9. When reading a newspaper or magazine, being unable to follow the thread of a story; losing track of what it is about.
10. Forgetting to tell somebody something important, perhaps forgetting to pass on a message or remind someone of something.
11. Getting the details of what someone was told you mixed up and confused.
12. Forgetting where things are normally kept or looking for them in the wrong place.
13. Repeating to someone what you have just told them or asking someone the same question twice.


Okay, so what do I do now, you say? Perhaps you think that went well, or maybe I’ve opened up a vortex of all that you thought was wrong with your memory. Don’t panic. Here are some numbers you can work with.

Your score will total up to be something between 0 and 52. If you answered 0, then you are likely a memory master and should consider writing this post instead of me! Chances are you are more interested in the average score. Participants tested by Royle & Lincoln had an average score of 9.75 with a standard deviation (or the amount of variation among scores) of 8.6.

What does this mean for me, you ask?


Well, consider yourself among the land of “normal memory” if you are around the average. Scores well above the average are what YOU are really concerned about… consider about two times the average (for example, approaching or higher than 30) cause for concern.

There is help for us all! When you think about the 13 items, chances are that there is room for improvement. These items target memory retrieval (being able to get a memory when we want it) and attention (well, we all know what that is). Most of our problems begin with focusing on the task. I suggest you go back through the list and assess how much better you would be if you simply paid more attention (or had the energy to pay attention) during tasks.

If this helps…you may quickly realize that with a little more sleep, hobbies, time for relaxation, an amazing partner…that you can begin to IMPROVE. After all, memory failure IS a part of everyday life.


Royle, J. & Lincoln, N. B. (2008). The everyday memory questionnaire – revised: Development of a 13-item scale. Disability and Rehabilitation, 30 (2), 114-121.