To use or not to use? influences of list presentation format and working memory capacity on older adults' semantic clustering

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Beatrice G. Kuhlmann (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Dayna Touron

Abstract: The goal of the present study was to examine effects of list presentation format (study list presented as a whole vs. words presented briefly individually) on younger and older adults' semantic clustering of study words. Spontaneous clustering use did not differ between format conditions in either age group. Older adults spontaneously clustered to a similar extent as younger adults, evidencing no production deficiency. When clustering use was instructed, the whole-list format conditions clustered more successfully, resulting in greater recall than in the individual-words conditions, even under dual-task demands. Older adults clustered less successfully than younger adults, evidencing a utilization deficiency, with no overall recall improvements after clustering instructions in the individual-words format. Clustering interfered with performance on a simple tone-discrimination task, indicating its general cognitive resource demands; absolute interference was greater for older adults. Working memory capacity (WMC) predicted clustering success and mediated age-related reductions therein when clustering use was instructed but not for spontaneous use. WMC-clustering correlations were similar across presentation formats but adjusted means differed such that individuals at the same level of WMC clustered more successfully in the whole-list format. Beliefs about clustering difficulty correlated with its spontaneous use but did not evidence metacognitive awareness of presentation-format effects in either age group. These results suggest that a simple change in presentation format can facilitate encoding strategy use, particularly for older adults, but these benefits do not necessarily translate into spontaneous use differences. Thereby, presentation format alone cannot explain mixed findings regarding age-related differences in spontaneous clustering.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Cognitive aging, Metacognition, Production deficiency, Semantic clustering, Utilization deficiency, Working memory capacity
Memory in youth
Memory in old age
Short-term memory

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