Memory for route and survey descriptions across the adult lifespan: The role of verbal and visuospatial working memory resources
Spatial representations of an environment involve different perspectives and can derive from different inputs, including spatial descriptions. While it is well-established that memory of visually-encoded spatial representations declines with increasing age, less is known about age-related changes in recalling verbally-encoded spatial information. We examined the lifespan trajectories of memory recall for route (person-centred) and survey (object-centred) spatial descriptions and compared it to non-spatial verbal memory in a sample (N = 168) of young, middle-aged, young-old, and old-old adults. We also examined the mediating role of both verbal and visuospatial short-term and working memory capacity in accounting for age-dependent changes in non-spatial verbal and spatial-verbal (route and survey) memory recall. Age-related differences emerged across all memory recall tasks, however, the onset and rate of changes was earlier and steeper for spatial descriptions compared to non-spatial verbal recall. Interestingly, the age effect on route recall was partially mediated by age-related changes in both verbal and visuospatial working memory capacity, but survey recall was associated only with visuospatial working memory, while non-spatial verbal recall was associated only with verbal working memory resources. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings for spatial cognition and ageing models are discussed.