Cognitive Correlates of Mnemonics Usage and Verbal Recall Memory in Old Age

Jacobs, Diane M; Rakitin, B C; Zubin, N R; Ventura, Paula R; Stern, Yaakov

Objectives: The objectives of this study were to determine whether minimizing requisite processing resources to learn a word list would differentially improve recall of older adults and to examine the associations between memory and nonmemory cognitive abilities.

Background: It has been hypothesized that a reduction in general processing resources contributes to age-related declines in memory and other cognitive abilities.

Methods: Twenty-four young adults and 47 older adults were administered two semantically related word lists, one list with words blocked into their categories and the other with categories intermixed. Tests of attention and working memory, language, and abstract reasoning were interspersed with the memory tasks. Participants were classified as young (age range: 17-30 years), young-old (age range: 65-73 years), and old-old (age range: 74-87 years) to compare the effects of list condition (i.e., blocked vs. unblocked) on recall performance. Correlation and regression analyses were used to examine the cognitive correlates of recall performance.

Results: Expected age differences in recall performance were observed. Based on the resource-reduction hypothesis of cognitive aging, we hypothesized that the blocked presentation of the to-be-remembered list would minimize processing demands and therefore differentially benefit recall in older elderly participants. Contrary to our prediction, however, the relative benefits of blocked list presentation on recall measures were comparable for young and older participants. Correlations and regression analyses revealed that recall performance was more strongly associated with word finding ability than with working memory or abstract reasoning skills.

Conclusions: Results suggest that level of recall of a semantically related word list and use of semantic clustering as an encoding strategy are associated more strongly with general word finding skills than with processing capacity.



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February 11, 2022