The concreteness effect in healthy ageing; An attenuation or preservation?
Previous research has shown that adults process concrete words faster when they share a taxonomic (similarity) relationship, and process abstract words faster when sharing a thematic (association) relationship (Crutch, Connell & Warrington, 2009). The current study tested if this dissociation could be replicated with older adults (65+) given conflicting evidence of the attenuation/preservation of the concreteness effect in healthy aging (Borghi & Setti, 2017; Peters & Daum, 2008). Healthy younger (N = 17) and older (N = 17) adults completed the odd-one-out task employed by Crutch et al. using four item sets in which the related words were either concrete or abstract, and related by similarity or association, e.g., Jeep-Taxi-Lorry-Mushroom (concrete-similarity), Crime-Punishment-Theft-Mimic (abstract-association). A significant interaction was found between concept type and semantic relation whereby reaction times were faster for concrete-similarity over concrete-association words, and faster for abstract-association over abstract-similarity words. No age effects were found in processing concrete or abstract concepts. The concreteness effect was found to be present for both younger and older adults suggesting that, contrary to expectation, older adults still show an advantage in processing concrete over abstract concepts with implications for Embodied Cognition.