Previous research testing age-related learning and memory problems specific to proper names has yielded mixed results. In the present experiments, young and older participants saw faces of previously unknown people identified by name and occupation. On subsequent presentations of each picture, participants attempted to recall the pictured person's name and occupation. Young and older adults made more name errors (the occupation was recalled but not the correct name) than occupation errors (the name was recalled but not the correct occupation), and older adults made relatively more name but not occupation errors than young adults. This specific age-related deficit in proper-name learning is explained within an interactive-activation model of memory and language that has been extensively applied to cognitive aging and proper-name retrieval.
Copyright 2004 American Psychological Association