Aging and autobiographical memory: dissociating episodic from semantic retrieval

Psychol Aging. 2002 Dec;17(4):677-89.


Cognitive aging research documents reduced access to contextually specific episodic details inolder adults, whereas access to semantic or other nonepisodic information is preserved or facilitated. The present study extended this finding to autobiographical memory by using a new measure; the Autobiographical Interview. Younger and older adults recalled events from 5 life periods. Protocols were scored according to a reliable system for categorizing episodic and nonepisodic information. Whereas younger adults were biased toward episodic details reflecting happenings, locations, perceptions, and thoughts, older adults favored semantic details not connected to a particular time and place. This pattern persisted after additional structured probing for contextual details. The Autobiographical Interview is a useful instrument for quantifying episodic and semantic contributions to personal remote memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Perception
  • Self Concept
  • Semantics*