Interference From Previous Distraction Disrupts Older Adults’ Memory

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Abstract

Objectives.

Previously relevant information can disrupt the ability of older adults to remember new information. Here, the researchers examined whether prior irrelevant information, or distraction, can also interfere with older adults’ memory for new information.

Method.

Younger and older adults first completed a 1-back task on pictures that were superimposed with distracting words. After a delay, participants learned picture-word paired associates and memory was tested using picture-cued recall. In 1 condition (high interference), some pairs included pictures from the 1-back task now paired with new words. In a low-interference condition, the transfer list used all new items.

Results.

Older adults had substantially lower cued-recall performance in the high- compared with the low-interference condition. In contrast, younger adults’ performance did not vary across conditions.

Discussion.

These findings suggest that even never-relevant information from the past can disrupt older adults’ memory for new associations.

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