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Psychol Aging. 2016 Nov;31(7):771-785. Epub 2016 Sep 5.

Aging and memory improvement through semantic clustering: The role of list-presentation format.

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Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


The present study examined how the presentation format of the study list influences younger and older adults' semantic clustering. Spontaneous clustering did not differ between age groups or between an individual-words (presentation of individual study words in consecution) and a whole-list (presentation of the whole study list at once for the same total duration) presentation format in 132 younger (18-30 years, M = 19.7) and 120 older (60-84 years, M = 69.5) adults. However, after instructions to use semantic clustering (second list) age-related differences in recall magnified, indicating a utilization deficiency, and both age groups achieved higher recall in the whole-list than in the individual-words format. While this whole-list benefit was comparable across age groups, it is notable that older adults were only able to improve their average recall performance after clustering instructions in the whole-list but not in the individual-words format. In both formats, instructed clustering was correlated with processing resources (processing speed and, especially, working memory capacity), particularly in older adults. Spontaneous clustering, however, was not related to processing resources but to metacognitive beliefs about the efficacy and difficulty of semantic clustering, neither of which indicated awareness of the benefits of the whole-list presentation format in either age group. Taken together, the findings demonstrate that presentation format has a nontrivial influence on the utilization of semantic clustering in adults. The analyses further highlight important differences between output-based and list-based clustering measures. (PsycINFO Database Record.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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