The rise and fall of immediate and delayed memory for verbal and visuospatial information from late childhood to late adulthood

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2013 Jan;142(1):96-107. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2012.10.005. Epub 2012 Dec 20.


Over 100,000 verbal and visuospatial immediate and delayed memory tests were presented via the Internet to over 28,000 participants in the age range of 11 to 80. Structural equation modeling pointed to the verbal versus visuospatial dimension as an important factor in individual differences, but not the immediate versus delayed dimension. We found a linear decrease of 1% to 3% per year in overall memory performance past the age of 25. For visuospatial tests, this decrease started at age 18 and was twice as fast as the decrease of verbal memory. There were strong effects of education, with the highest educated group sometimes scoring one full standard deviation above the lowest educated group. Gender effects were small but as expected: women outperformed men on the verbal memory tasks; men outperformed women on the visuospatial tasks. We also found evidence of increasing proneness to false memory with age. Memory for recent news events did not show a decrease with age.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Child
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Male
  • Memory, Long-Term / physiology*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*
  • Young Adult