The Effect of Prior Task Success on Older Adults’ Memory Performance: Examining the Influence of Different Types of Task Success

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Background/Study Context: Negative aging stereotypes can lead older adults to perform poorly on memory tests. Yet, memory performance can be improved if older adults have a single successful experience on a cognitive test prior to participating in a memory experiment (Geraci & Miller, 2013, Psychology and Aging, 28,340–345). The current study examined the effects of different types of prior task experience on subsequent memory performance.

Methods: Before participating in a verbal free recall experiment, older adults in Experiment 1 successfully completed either a verbal or a visual cognitive task or no task. In Experiment 2, they successfully completed either a motor task or no task before participating in the free recall experiment.

Results: Results from Experiment 1 showed that relative to control (no prior task), participants who had prior success, either on a verbal or a visual task, had better subsequent recall performance. Experiment 2 showed that prior success on a motor task, however, did not lead to a later memory advantage relative to control.

Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that older adults’ memory can be improved by a successful prior task experience so long as that experience is in a cognitive domain.

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Experimental Aging Research





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