Adult Age Differences in Production and Monitoring in Dual-List Free Recall

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Abstract

The present experiment examined adult age differences in the production and monitoring of responses in dual-list free recall. Younger and older adults studied 2 lists of unrelated words and were instructed to recall from List 1, List 2, or List 1 and List 2. An externalized free recall procedure required participants to: (a) report all responses that came to mind while recalling from specific lists, (b) classify responses as correct or incorrect, and (c) provide confidence judgments for their accuracy classifications. Relative to younger adults, older adults showed a monitoring deficit by misclassifying proportionally more responses and discriminating more poorly between correct and incorrect responses in their confidence judgments. This deficit was especially pronounced under conditions of retroactive interference that occurred when participants recalled from List 1 only. A comparison of retrieval dynamics for all responses produced and for those that participants were reasonably confident were correct provided information about age differences in preretrieval context reinstatement and postretrieval monitoring of retrieved context. One noteworthy finding was that total production when recalling from List 1 showed that List 2 responses remained more accessible across the first several retrieval attempts for older than younger adults, which indicated a substantial age difference in the ability to reinstate List 1 context. Overall, the present findings provide a nuanced characterization of age differences in the operation of production and monitoring mechanisms under conditions of proactive and retroactive interference that can inform models of free recall.

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