Age-related deficits in free recall: The role of rehearsal

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Age-related deficits have been consistently observed in free recall. Recent accounts of episodic memory suggest that these deficits could result from differential patterns of rehearsal. In the present study, 20 young and 20 older adults (mean ages 21 and 72 years, respectively) were presented with lists of 20 words for immediate free recall using the overt rehearsal methodology. The young outperformed the older adults at all serial positions. There were significant age-related differences in the patterns of overt rehearsals: Young adults rehearsed a greater number of different words than did older adults, they rehearsed words to more recent serial positions, and their rehearsals were more widely distributed throughout the list. Consistent with a recency-based account of episodic memory, age deficits in free recall are largely attributable to age differences in the recency, frequency, and distribution of rehearsals. † This study was presented as a poster at the Ninth Cognitive Aging Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, April 2002. ‡ Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV4 7AL, UK. Email:

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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