Making small mistakes in day-to-day life might be an early indicator of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
The research, published by Temple University, Philadelphia, suggested that “micro-errors”, such as forgetting to take the teabag out of a cup of tea, could lead to a much more serious condition.
Scientists observed 100 people, 50 of them with dementia, and asked them to carry out basic tasks.
The jobs included making a breakfast of jam on toast with a cup of coffee, or packing a lunch for a child.
They found that those with dementia tended to miss out vital steps or forget that they needed to complete a task altogether.
Dr Tania Giovannetti, co-author of the study, said: “Early on, we can look at very subtle errors called micro-errors.
“When we compare healthy agers to young people, there are more micro-errors in healthy older adults than young adults and they’re associated with memory problems and cognitive changes.
“Healthy agers reach out to objects inefficiently, they touch them when they don’t need to, they make all these extra little actions. “We think that might be the beginning of a problem. If you have more of those, then you are more vulnerable to decline in future.
“It’s really too early on to say if there’s a problem but those subtle little signs might be something to keep an eye on.”