Preprint: Dissociable age effects across measures of autobiographical and episodic memory
Conway, Martin A.
The aim of this study was to investigate inconsistent findings in the ageing autobiographical memory literature. Twenty older and 20 younger adults were compared across a battery of tasks which measured memory for everyday events, recent and remote time periods, word-cued autobiographical memory, and word-list recall. The results showed a variable effect of age on the retrieval of specific episodic information, with young adults outperforming older adults on word-list recall, word-cued AM, and memories from adolescence, but no evidence of a difference between groups on the other two tasks. In addition, older adults recalled more semantic information than younger adults, particularly during recall of everyday events. This pattern explains some of the discrepancies in the literature by suggesting that some aspects of episodic AM are more age-sensitive than others. Despite ostensibly measuring the same type of memory, different tasks used to measure episodic AM are differentially sensitive to age-related changes. Possible contributing factors are discussed, and we highlight the need for a more rigorous examination of the processes involved in different AM tasks.