Individual Difference Variables in Memory Training
As we have seen throughout this chapter, adults are a very heterogeneous group when it comes to memory performance. Research reviewed earlier has shown that verbal ability, prior knowledge, and familiarity influence how well one performs on memory tasks. Herrmann (1993) argued that individual difference variables should be considered when designing memory training programs. Moreover, training may be more effective when changes in emotional status (Herrmann, 1993) and feelings of self-efficacy (Berry, 1999; West et al., 2003; West & Yassuda, 2004) are major goals of the program. Research finds that the benefits of memory training depend on the specific needs of the client (Bendiksen & Bendiksen, 1996; de Frias et al., 2003). For example, older adults who are highly verbal have benefited most from a training program emphasizing ways to connect incoming information with information they already know.
An approach to memory training that includes both training on specific strategies with such relevant factors as relaxation (Stigsdotter, Neely, & Backman, 1993a, 1993b, 1995) and social support (Flynn & Storandt, 1990) has typically resulted in performance gains. However, whether the gains due to the combined approach are greater than those following traditional strategy training is unclear (Stigsdotter, Neely, & Backman, 1993a, 1993b,
1995) . Moreover, although providing memory strategies improves performance for adults of all ages, surprisingly little research has been done to identify how broadly the effects of training generalize across tasks and individuals.
To examine these issues, Stigsdotter, Neely, and Backman (1995) compared performance in a control group and a group given composite training involving encoding operations, attentional functions, and relaxation. The training task involved learning a list of concrete words, and generalization of the strategy was tested on tasks involving recall of objects, recall of participant-performed tasks, and recall of abstract words. People who were trained on the combined strategy still outperformed the control group 6 months after training, but only generalized their strategy to the recall-of-objects task.
Additionally, age, education level, and level of general cognitive functioning did not predict performance after training; only performance on the pretraining task predicted future performance. These findings indicate that performance gains remain several months after strategy training on a specific task, but that people tend not to use the strategy in other situations very much.
In sum, the memory training literature is emerging as an important area for addressing questions about how memory performance differs with age. Although much more work on the issues of generalization and individual differences in the effectiveness of training remains to be done, the available research demonstrates that training may need to include not only a memory technique, but also memory-related components such as self-efficacy, relaxation, and so forth. Also remaining to be answered are the questions of how to predict who will benefit from memory training and why people differ in the degree to which they benefit from training.
1. What is the E-I-E-I-O framework, and how does it help organize memory training?
2. What effect does combining approaches, such as memory training with relaxation, have on performance in memory training?