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Psychol Aging. 1986 Dec;1(4):293-9.

Self-referent processing of age-specific material.

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Psychology Department, University of Missouri, Columbia 65211.


College students and elderly subjects made self- and other-descriptiveness judgments about trait adjectives that were age-specific descriptors. The young adults favored endorsement of traits that had been judged descriptive of young adults, compared to traits that had been judged descriptive of elderly adults. However, elderly adults endorsed an equivalent number of young and elderly traits. This indicates that content specificity with regard to age is more a characteristic of young adults than elderly people, with elderly adults being "schematic" for descriptors of both young and older people. Nonetheless, for the elderly subjects, the speed of self-reference decisions was slower for the young traits relative to the elderly traits, as if the young traits were somewhat less accessible. Although elderly adults recalled fewer adjectives overall than young adults, their pattern of recall was similar for self- versus other-referenced items. Thus, it seem unlikely that age differences in spontaneous self-referencing account for the general age deficit in retention.

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