The associative memory deficit of older adults: the role of strategy utilization

Psychol Aging. 2007 Mar;22(1):202-8. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.22.1.202.


Past research has established an associative deficit hypothesis (e.g., M. Naveh-Benjamin, 2000) that attributes part of older adults' poor episodic memory performance to their difficulty in creating and retrieving cohesive episodes. Here, the authors evaluate the degree to which this deficit can be reduced by older adults' use of associative strategies. Young and older adults learned word pairs under either intentional-learning instructions or instructions eliciting associative strategies either at encoding or both at encoding and at retrieval, and they then took tests on their memory for both the components and the associations. Results replicated the associative deficit of older adults under intentional-learning instructions. In addition, they showed that instructions to use appropriate associative strategies during either encoding or, even more so, during encoding and retrieval resulted in a significant decrease in the associative deficit. The theoretical and applied implications of these results are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Association*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Processes
  • Middle Aged
  • Recognition, Psychology