Adults' Conceptions of Everyday Memory Failures in Others: Factors That Mediate the Effects of Target Age

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Abstract

This study investigated young and older adults' conceptions of memory failures in others. One hundred young and 100 older adults rated memory failures in targets of 20, 40, 60, and 80 years of age as to how likely the memory failures were due to lack of effort or lack of ability. With increasing age, targets' forgetful episodes were rated as less likely to be caused by lack of effort and more likely to be due to lack of ability. A Subject Age × Target Age interaction on ability ratings showed age to be more salient for older subjects. Memory content, type of memory, subject sex, and target sex all influenced judgment of memory failure. The results support Erber's (1989) notion of a double standard in memory-failure appraisal; they demonstrated that adults' conceptions of memory include a decremental view of memorial ability with increasing age that is differentially sensitive to subject, target, and memorial variables.

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