Source Memory and Encoding Strategy in Normal Aging

Wegesin, Domonick J.; Jacobs, Diane M.; Zubin, Naomi R.; Ventura, Paula R.; Stern, Yaakov

Of the memory deficits associated with aging, elders are most impaired at attributing the source to remembered information. Additionally, aging is marked by a decrease in the use of encoding strategies that are thought to enhance the acquisition and retention of information. We examined how manipulating the encoding strategy during acquisition affected item and source memory in 32 young and 68 elderly participants. Elderly participants were dichotomized into young-old and old-old based upon the median age (74 years). Memory was assessed using Word List A from the California Verbal Learning Test (CVLT) and its alternate form. Encoding strategy was manipulated by semantic clustering. For the Blocked List, words were presented grouped into their semantic categories, whereas for the Unblocked List categories were intermixed within the list. Item and source memory judgments were made 20 minutes after the final CVLT recall trial and again one week later. Results revealed a disproportionate decline in source, compared to item memory in the two older groups. Semantic blocking enhanced item memory for the elders, but not for the young. The amount of semantic clustering performed by the elders showed a decline with age and was positively related to source performance. Results also suggest that subtle age-related changes in semantic knowledge may be related to declines in semantic clustering and memory performance.



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Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology

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February 11, 2022