Source memory in older adults: an encoding or retrieval problem?

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2001 Sep;27(5):1131-46. doi: 10.1037//0278-7393.27.5.1131.


Source memory has been found to be more affected by aging than item memory, possibly because of declining frontal function among older adults. In 4 experiments, the authors explored the role of the frontal lobes (FLs) in source memory, the extent to which they may be involved in the encoding and/or retrieval of source or context, and the conditions under which the source memory deficit in older people may be reduced or eliminated. Results indicated that only a subset of older adults show deficits in source memory, namely those with below average frontal function, and these deficits can be eliminated by requiring people at study to consider the relation between an item and its context. These results provide convincing evidence of the importance of frontal function during the encoding of source and suggest that older adults with reduced FL function fail to initiate the processes required to integrate contextual information with focal content during study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Attention* / physiology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall* / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology
  • Speech Perception / physiology
  • Voice