Age-Related Differences in Selective Associative Memory: Implications for Responsible Remembering
Dillon H. Murphy, Kara M. Hoover, and Alan D. Castel
While often showing associative memory deficits, there may be instances when older adults selectively remember important associative information. We presented younger and older adults with children they would be hypothetically babysitting, and each child had three preferences: a food they like, a food they dislike, and a food they are allergic to and must avoid. In Experiment 1, all foods associated with each child were simultaneously presented while in Experiments 2 and 3, participants self-regulated their study of the different preferences for each child. We were interested in whether people, particularly older adults who often display associative memory impairments, can prioritize the most important information with consequences for forgetting (i.e., allergies), especially with increased task experience. Overall, compared with younger adults, older adults were better at selectively studying and recalling the children’s allergies relative to the other preferences, and these patterns increased with task experience. Together, the present results suggest that both younger and older adults can employ strategies that enhance the recall of important information, illustrating responsible remembering. Specifically, both younger and older adults can learn to self-assess and prioritize the information that they need to remember, and despite memory deficits, older adults can learn to employ strategies that enhance the recall of important information, using metacognition and goal-directed remembering to engage in responsible remembering.