With the graying of America we will see more and more older adults with memory-related prob­lems. Thus, one important implication of this demo­graphic trend is to meet the needs of this growing issue. The number of funded outreach memory and aging centers is growing in the United States (e. g., the center partnered by Auburn University and East Alabama Medical Center, and those at the University of California and in San Francisco). Such centers attract individuals with any level of memory impairment. These outreach programs to local communities provide educational and refer­ral opportunities along with skill development and training and resource development. The centers are important because they can bridge the gap between
research, education, and patient care. Many of these centers are interdisciplinary in nature and thus have the benefit of collaborations with researchers in aging, neurologists, neuropsychologists, nurses, and pharmacists. They serve as catalysts to facilitate interactions among local networks of researchers and other more applied centers such as chapters of the Alzheimer’s Disease Association to enhance education and information dissemination. Thus, the implications of memory and aging research are becoming more important in our society. With the aging of the baby boomers, the social implications of understanding the memory competencies of our newest older generation have only begun to become apparent.


6.1 Overview of Information Processing

What are the primary aspects of the information-processing model?

• The information-processing model assumes an active participant, both quantitative and qualitative aspects of performance, and processing of information through a series of systems.

What are the areas where we observe differential age changes in attention and memory?

• Sensory memory is the first level of processing incoming information from the environment. Sensory memory has a large capacity, but information only lasts there a very short time.

6.2 Attentional Control

What is processing speed? What age

differences are found?

• An important issue in the literature is whether processing speed represents a general phenomenon that affects all mental processing.

• Alternatively, evidence shows that age-related slowing is specific to particular levels of processing and specific tasks.

What are the processing resources that

underlie information processing??

• Some researchers claim that older adults have fewer processing resources than younger adults do. However, this conclusion is suspect because processing resources is ill defined.

What is inhibition loss? When are age differences found?

• Older adults have more difficulty filtering out or inhibiting irrelevant information than younger adults do, but this may also have a beneficial effect.

What are attentional resources? Under what conditions are age differences observed?

• Divided attention assesses attentional resources and involves doing more than one task that demands attention. Age differences in divided attention depend on the degree of task complexity and practice.

How do automatic and effortful processes differ? In what situations are age differences present?

• Automatic processing places minimal demands on attentional capacity whereas effortful processing requires all of the available attentional capacity. There are relatively no age differences in the former and pronounced age differences in the latter.

6.3 Memory Processes

What is working memory? What age differences have been found in working memory?

• Working memory refers to the processes and structures involved in holding information in mind and simultaneously using that information, sometimes in conjunction with incoming information, to solve a problem, make a decision, or learn. Information is kept active through rehearsal.

• In general, working memory capacity and rehearsal decline with age, although the extent of the decline is still in doubt. There is some evidence that age differences in working memory are not universal.

How does implicit and explicit memory differ across age?

• Implicit memory is the facilitation or change in task performance that is attributable to having been exposed to information at some earlier point
in time, but which does not involve active, explicit memory.

• Older adults are generally better at implicit memory tasks than explicit memory tasks.

How does episodic and semantic memory performance differ across age?

• In episodic memory, age-related decrements are typically found on recall tests but not on recognition tests. Older adults tend not to use memory strategies spontaneously as often or as well as younger adults.

• Semantic memory concerns learning and remembering the meaning of words and concepts that are not tied to specific occurrences of events in time. Fewer age differences are found in semantic memory.

What age differences have been found in the autobiographical aspects of episodic memory?

• Some aspects of autobiographical memory remain intact for many years whereas other aspects do not. Verification of autobiographical memories is often difficult.

• Older adults have fewer flashbulb memories and their impact is restricted to particular points in the life span.

6.4 Factors Affecting Age Differences in Memory

What evidence is there for age differences in encoding?

• Age-related decrements in encoding may be due to decrements in rehearsal in working memory and being slower at making connections with incoming information. Older adults do not spontaneously organize incoming information as well as younger adults, but they can use organizational helps when told to do so.

However, the benefits of this approach are short-lived.

• Although older adults tend not to use optimal encoding strategies, this does not account for poor memory performance.

What age differences have been observed in retrieval?

• Age differences are greater for tip-of-the-tongue memory failures. Age differences are greater on recall than on recognition tests. Older adults benefit more than younger adults from retrieval cues, but age differences in performance are not eliminated.

What are the relative contributions of encoding and retrieval in explaining age differences in performance? How does a neuroscience perspective help us understand these contributions?

• Changes in memory with age are due to both encoding and retrieval problems. Research involving brain-imaging studies of blood flow in the brain shows substantially less brain activity and less lateralization in older adults compared with younger adults during encoding.

How does automatic retrieval affect age differences in memory?

• Although conscious recollection shows decline with age, nonconscious, automatic retrieval of information does not reveal decline.

What age differences have been observed in processing misinformation as true?

• The ability to remember the source of a familiar event or whether the event was imagined or experienced declines with age.

• Older adults are more susceptible to false memories in that they remember items or events that did not occur under specific conditions of plausibility.

6.5 Memory for Discourse

What age differences are observed in text – based levels of memory for discourse?

• Age differences are more pronounced for text- based levels of discourse such as lower-level detailed information.

• Age differences in performance are influenced by the use of effective reading strategies, how a story is retold, and prior knowledge. Older adults are especially likely to put pieces of prior knowledge in their recall of newly learned text.


• Higher presentation speeds may put older adults at a disadvantage; age differences are reduced when self-pacing is used. Age differences in recall tend to increase as the length of reading time

is increased. Age-related slowing in cognitive processing explains much of this difference.

• Age differences are usually not found for the major organizational elements of text, but performance is related to verbal ability. With well – organized text, which emphasizes the structure and main ideas, age differences are typically

not found. Older adults may be more interested in learning general points than in learning the details. Prior beliefs also make it difficult to learn and remember elements of text.

What age differences are observed for situation models of discourse memory?

• Age differences are less pronounced at higher levels of text, such as the situation, which can involve emotional information, goals, and personality characteristics of main characters.

• The characteristics of the reader, such as personal biases and personal motivations, influence the situation model level of discourse.

What social factors and characteristics of individuals influence memory for discourse?

• Social context matters, and older adults’ retelling of stories varies depending upon who the listener is.

6.6 Memory in Context

What age differences are there in prospective memory?

• Age differences are less likely on event-based prospective memory tasks than on time-based prospective memory tasks. How accurately prospective memory tasks are performed depends on the time of day. Processing speed may help explain these age differences.

What are some factors that help preserve memory as we grow older?

• Exercise, education, multilingualism, and use of semantic memory are all factors that can enhance memory in older adults and delay cognitive decline.

6.7 Self-Evaluations of Memory Abilities

What are the major types of memory self-evaluations?

• There are two general categories of memory self­evaluations. Metamemory refers to knowledge about how memory works and what one believes to be true about it. Memory monitoring refers

to the awareness of what we are doing with our memory right now.

What age differences have been found in metamemory?

• Metamemory is typically assessed with questionnaires. Older adults seem to know less than younger adults about the workings of memory and its capacity, view memory as less stable, believe that their memory will decline with age, and feel that they have little control over these changes. However, the belief in inevitable decline does not apply equally to all aspects of memory.

• How metamemory is organized may differ across adulthood. Memory self-efficacy is the belief in how well one will perform in a specific situation and is an important construct in understanding how people make judgments about performance before they have experience with a task.

How do younger and older adults compare on memory monitoring tasks? How is task experience important?

• Older adults often overestimate how well they will do when making predictions without knowledge of or experience with the task. With task knowledge or experience, age differences are usually absent. These changes in patterns of prediction appear to be due to individuals being able to use performance on earlier trials to adjust their predictions in subsequent trials.

6.8 Memory Training

What are the major ways that memory skills are trained? How effective are these methods?

• The E-I-E-I-O framework, based on explicit- implicit aspects of memory and external-internal types of strategies, is a useful way to organize memory training.

• Older adults can learn new internal memory strategies but, like all adults, will usually abandon them over time.

• External-explicit strategies (such as lists and calendars) are common, but internal-implicit strategies are effective even with persons who have Alzheimer’s disease.

• Practicing remembering things helps to improve memory. Use of memory enhancing drugs does not work over the long run. Combining types of strategies may represent the best approach.

What are the key individual difference

variables in memory training?

• Memory training may be more effective when individual difference factors, such as emotional issues, are taken into account. Combining memory strategy training with relaxation training, for example, has been shown to be effective. However, older adults appear not

to generalize the strategies across a range of different tasks.

6.9 Clinical Issues and Memory Testing

What is the difference between normal and

abnormal memory aging?

• Whether memory changes affect daily functioning is one way to separate normal from abnormal aging. Brain-imaging techniques allow localization of problems with more precision.

• Some diseases are marked by severe memory impairments. However, in many cases, telling the difference between normal changes and those associated with disease or other abnormal events is difficult.

What is the connection between memory and

mental health?

• Dementia (such as Alzheimer’s disease) and severe depression both involve memory impairment. In depression, negative belief systems may underlie these memory problems. Researchers and clinicians must learn to differentiate the various types of mental health problems.

How is memory affected by nutrition

and drugs?

• Drugs such as alcohol and caffeine, and some prescription and over-the-counter medications, have deleterious effects on memory.

Review Questions

6.1 Overview of Information Processing

• What is working memory? What is inhibition loss? What age differences have been found? What role do these processes play in understanding age differences in memory?

• What is episodic memory? What is semantic memory? How are they tested? What patterns of age differences have been found? What happens to the use of memory strategies with age?

• What is implicit memory? How does implicit memory differ with age?

• What is autobiographical memory and how does it differ with age?

6.2 Attentional Control

• How do processing speed and processing resources affect older adults’ information processing?

• In what way do older adults have difficulty filtering out information?

• How do automatic and effortful processing contribute to age differences in information processing?

• Why are attentional resources important to our understanding of age differences in memory?

6.3 Memory Processes

• What are working memory processes and how do they differ with increasing age?

• What are the age differences in implicit and explicit memory?

• Why are there age differences in episodic but not semantic memory?

• Why do some aspects of autobiographical memory remain intact whereas others do not with increasing age?


6.4 Factors Affecting Age Differences in Memory

• What age differences have been found in encoding processes?

• What age differences have been found in retrieval processes?

• What are the relative contributions of encoding and retrieval in understanding age differences in memory?

• What is the emerging role of automatic retrieval in understanding age differences in memory?

• How do source memory and false memories change with age?

6.5 Memory for Discourse

• What age differences have been uncovered related to text-based memory?

• What age differences are evident for situational information?

• How do the patterns of age differences for discourse and list learning compare?

• What text variables are most important?

6.6 Memory in Context

• What types of prospective memory have been distinguished? What age differences are there in prospective memory?

• What are factors preventing decline in memory functioning? How do they work?

6.7 Self-Evaluations of Memory Abilities

• What major types of self-evaluations have been described?

• What age differences are there in memory knowledge and in beliefs about memory?

• What age differences have been found in making predictions about performance? What factors influence people’s predictions?

6.8 Memory Training

• What is the E-I-E-I-O framework? How does it help organize memory training programs?

• How much do older adults benefit from each of the major types of memory training programs?

• What kinds of memory interventions work over time?

6.9 Clinical Issues and Memory Testing

• What criteria are used to determine the difference between normal and abnormal changes in a person’s memory?

• What are the major mental health conditions that involve significant memory problems?

• What effects do nutrition and drugs have on memory?

Integrating Concepts in Development

• Based on material in Chapter 2 on cognitive neuroscience and the material in this chapter, what are the major factors involved in understanding age-related differences in memory?

• What aspects of neurological functioning would be important to consider in designing memory training programs?

• How would you design an informational brochure for older adults to maximize their ability to remember it?

Key Terms

autobiographical memory Remembering information and events from your own life. automatic processesing Processes that are fast, reliable, and insensitive to increased cognitive demands. cognitive reserve Factors that provide flexibility in responding and adapting to changes in the environment.

divided attention The ability to pay attention and successfully perform more than one task at a time. effortful processing It requires all of the available attentional capacity when processing information. encoding The process of getting information into the memory system.

episodic memory The general class of memory having to do with the conscious recollection of information from a specific event or point in time. explicit memory The conscious and intentional recollection of information.

external aids Memory aids that rely on environmental resources.

false memory When one remembers items or events that did not occur.

implicit memory The effortless and unconscious recollection of information. information-processing approach The study of how people take in stimuli from their environment and transform them into memories; the approach is based on a computer metaphor. internal aids Memory aids that rely on mental processes.

long-term memory The aspects of memory involved

in remembering rather extensive amounts of

information over relatively long periods of time.

memory monitoring The awareness of what we are

doing in memory right now.

memory self-efficacy The belief in one’s ability to

perform a specific memory task.

metamemory Memory about how memory works and

what one believes to be true about it.

processing resources The amount of attention one has

to apply to a particular situation.

prospective memory Process involving remembering

to remember something in the future.

recall Process of remembering information without

the help of hints or cues.

recognition Process of remembering information by selecting previously learned information from among several items.

rehearsal Process by which information is held in working memory, either by repeating items over and over or by making meaningful connections between the information in working memory and information already known.

retrieval The process of getting information back out of memory.

semantic memory Learning and remembering the meaning of words and concepts that are not tied to specific occurrences of events in time.

Attention and Memory 231

sensory memory The earliest step in information processing where new, incoming information is first registered.

situation model When individuals use their world knowledge to construct a more global understanding of what a text is about.

source memory The ability to remember the source of a familiar event as well as the ability to determine if an event was imagined or actually experienced. speed of processing How quickly and efficiently the early steps in information processing are completed. storage The manner in which information is represented and kept in memory. strategies Various techniques that make learning or remembering easier and that increase the efficiency of storage.

working memory Refers to the processes and structures involved in holding information in mind and simultaneously using that information, sometimes in conjunction with incoming information, to solve a problem, make a decision, or learn new information.


www. cengage. com/psychology/cavanaugh

Visit the companion website, where you will find tutorial quizzes, glossary, flashcards, and more.


Blanchard-Fields, F., & Hess, T. M. (Eds.). (1996). Perspectives on cognitive changes in adulthood and aging. New York: McGraw Hill. The best basic overview of age-related cognitive changes. Easy to moderate difficulty.

Craik, F. I. M., & Salthouse, T. A. (Eds.). (2000).

The handbook of aging and cognition. Hillsdale,

NJ: Erlbaum. One of the best overviews of memory and cognition in one volume. Moderate to difficult reading.

Park, D. C., & Hall Gutchess, A. (2009). Cognitive aging and everyday life. In D. C. Park & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Aging and cognition: A student primer (pp. 217-232). Philadelphia: Psychology Press. A broad discussion of many different aspects of cognitive aging. Moderate difficulty.