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Age differences in verbal and visuo-spatial working memory updating: Evidence from analysis of serial position curves

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Memory updating is the ability to select and update relevant information and suppress no-longer-relevant data. The few studies in this area, targeting mainly the verbal domain, have investigated and confirmed an age-related decline in working memory updating ability (De Beni & Palladino, 2004; Van der Linden, Bredart, & Beerten, 1994). The present research examines the ability of younger and older adults to update information in verbal and visuo-spatial running memory tasks. Results showed that the participants’ performance was higher in the verbal than in the visuo-spatial task. Nonetheless, independently of the task domain, an age-related decline in updating performance was found. Moreover, analysis of serial positions suggested that, in the updating procedure, the participants were not attempting to actively maintain items, preferring to adopt a low-effort, “recency-based” strategy. The use of this type of strategy is more evident in older participants, as shown in both the accuracy performance and the proportion of intrusion errors.
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Keywords: Ageing; Updating; Working memory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of General Psychology, University of Padua, Padua, Italy 2: Department of Developmental and Social Psychology, University of Padua, Padua, Italy

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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