Complex semantic processing in old age: does it stay or does it go?

Psychol Aging. 2000 Mar;15(1):29-43. doi: 10.1037//0882-7974.15.1.29.


Old adults' (N = 24) and young adults' (N = 24) speed of producing exemplars of semantic categories (i.e., semantic fluency) varying in difficulty was assessed both in a standard condition and in a "set-switching" condition where exemplars had to be produced from 2 categories in an alternating manner. "Retrieval-position function" parameters were used to assess speed of semantic access independent of nonsemantic factors. Results suggested age effects in nonsemantic components but not in semantic retrieval per se. Also, age deficits in set switching were relatively subtle. Findings are discussed with relation to issues of domain specificity of age effects as well as of the role of executive control during semantic retrieval and age differences therein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Memory* / physiology
  • Mental Recall
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Semantics*
  • Verbal Behavior*