Age Differences and Similarities in the Shift From Computation to Retrieval During Reading Comprehension

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Abstract

Previous research has established that 1 mechanism underlying speed-ups in task performance with practice involves a shift from computational processing to retrieval of information encoded earlier in practice. To what extent do young and older adults differ in shifts from computation to retrieval with practice in reading comprehension? Young and older adults read short stories containing an unfamiliar noun-noun combination (e.g., bee caterpillar) followed by disambiguating information indicating the combination's meaning (either the normatively dominant meaning or an alternative subordinate meaning). Stories were presented either once or repeatedly across practice blocks. In Experiment 1, both age groups shifted from computation to retrieval with practice for the repeated items. However, older adults were slower to shift (e.g., older adults showed slower convergence of reading times for repeated subordinate and dominant items). Results of Experiment 2 suggested that the slower shift was due to age differences in bias against using retrieval rather than associative learning differences. The authors compare age differences in retrieval shifts in reading versus other tasks and discuss implications for age differences in the regulation of reading comprehension.

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