Episodic and semantic remote autobiographical memory in ageing

Memory. 2002 Jul;10(4):239-57. doi: 10.1080/09658210143000353.


Many laboratory studies have demonstrated an age effect on episodic memory which is in contrast with the preservation of semantic memory. The aim of this study was the assessment of age effects on autobiographical memory according to the length of the retention interval, taking into account the episodic and semantic components. A total of 52 subjects, aged between 40 and 79, were divided into four age groups. They were tested with a sophisticated autobiographical questionnaire consisting of two tasks, one involving the recall of semantic information and another the recall of episodic events. Results revealed that episodic recall deteriorated more with age and retention interval than semantic recall. These data, gathered using an ecological test, confirm age differences demonstrated by laboratory tests on the episodic-semantic distinction. Furthermore, the profile of results obtained for the recall of specific detailed events, and analysed according to age of encoding, confirms the distribution of episodic memories across the lifespan, as modelled by Rubin, Wetzler, and Nebes (1986) with the cue-word technique.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Retention, Psychology / physiology
  • Semantics*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors