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Monday, February 6, 2017

Walter Cunningham

     The loser of the following game, Sam Sloan, is pretty well known among US players, but his opponent is not. Google "Walter Cunningham" and the name that pops up will be the better known retired American astronaut
     Dr. Walter Rudolph Cunningham, the chess master, was born on October 17, 1943, in Los Angeles and earned a Ph.D. in Psychology in 1974. He was a professor at the University of Florida for 30 years. Cunningham was a Life Master with the USCF and the youngest Master in the country in the late 1950's. He won over 40 tournaments in his lifetime. Besides chess he also enjoyed playing soccer, bridge and poker and reading history books. Cunningham passed away at the age of 66 at the North Florida Regional Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida on July 31, 2010.
     His biggest contribution to psychology was research in what he called the "tip of the tongue syndrome" which is that frustrating memory loss that is sometimes prevalent in older people. In the study Cunningham measured the speed and accuracy people over 60 remembered of items flashed on a computer screen and compared them to adults under 30. His hypothesis was that instead of training old people to think better, they need to be taught to remember better. 
     He observed that younger and older people had similar results in recognizing items learned from the list, but it wasn't that the older folks couldn't learn. The problem was that without a cur, they could not retrieve information as quickly from their memory. Hence, the old saying, 'It's on the tip of my tongue." 
     Cunningham began his research on aging in 1972 while at the gerontology center at the University of California. In 1975 he joined the National Institute on Aging. 
     In a previous study he found that as persons grow older their intellectual skills become more uniform. This is especially true in the time required to complete intellectual tasks such as arithmetic problems. Persons over 60 show less difference among themselves in the ability to reason logically and identify the meanings of words than the younger folks. 
     His conclusion was that age appears to be a leveler of intelligence and traditional IQ tests are of only limited usefulness when trying to measure older adults. That's because creating, judgment and planning are not things the test measures; IQ tests primarily measure children's educational development. 
     Cunningham believed that older folks recognize when they are losing their memory and it makes them frustrated. He anticipated the growth of "memory clinics" that would help older adults restore their intellectual skills. Just in case a reader from the US might be interested, you can find out more about memory clinics HERE and locate a memory clinic near your HERE.
     I don't remember why I started this post, but looking back at the beginning, I see it was about a game between two journeyman masters and the point was it demonstrates how they play chess; they aren't perfect, so the next time you meet one, take heart! 

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