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  • Writer's pictureDillon Murphy

Age-Related Differences in Memory When Offloading Important Information

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

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Age-Related Differences in Memory When Offloading Important Information



Dillon H. Murphy and Alan D. Castel



ABSTRACT

People can choose to use external memory aids and offload information to help them remember it, but it is unclear how objective and subjective value or importance influence offloading decisions in younger and older adults. We presented younger adults (n = 99; age range: 18–31) and older adults (n = 93; age range: 60–96) with items to remember for a later test and allowed them to offload a subset of the presented items. In Experiment 1, the to-be-remembered information was lists of associated words paired with point values counting toward participants’ scores if recalled. In Experiment 2, the to-be- remembered information was lists of items along a theme, such as packing for vacation, which differed in subjective value. Results revealed that when words were paired with objective point values, younger adults were more selective in their offloading decisions and subsequent recall than older adults (i.e., younger adults were more likely to offload and recall high-value items than low-value items relative to older adults). When the to-be-remembered items instead differed in subjective value, older adults were more selective in their offloading decisions than younger adults. Specifically, older adults were more likely to offload words they rated as important relative to items they rated as less important while younger adults displayed the opposite pattern—younger adults were more likely to offload words they rated as less important compared with items they rated as more important. This difference in offloading tendencies when to-be-remembered information varies in subjective value may be indicative of older adults engaging in a form of metacognitive control that can help ensure the use of responsible remembering.

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