To determine the cognitive mechanisms underlying age differences in temporal working memory (WM), the authors examined the contributions of item memory, associative memory, simple order memory, and multiple item memory, using parallel versions of the delayed-matching-to-sample task. Older adults performed more poorly than younger adults on tests of temporal memory, but there were no age differences in nonassociative item memory, regardless of the amount of information to be learned. In contrast, a combination of associative and simple order memory, both of which were reduced in older adults, completely accounted for age-related declines in temporal memory. The authors conclude that 2 mechanisms may underlie age differences in temporal WM, namely, a generalized decline in associative ability and a specific difficulty with order information.
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