Adult age differences in memory: Effects of distinctive and common encodings

Jane L. Rankin*, Susan Firnhaber

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


To clarify the role of encoding distinctiveness and encoding cue utilization in age-related memory differences, young and elder ly adults were instructed either to generate distinctive or common adjectives for 40 nouns and given 3 study-recall trials for the nouns, both with no cues and with the adjectives that they had generated as cues. Their retention was compared with that of a control group that had rated the nouns for abstractness. Elderly adults were as likely as young adults to generate distinctive adjectives, but were less likely than young adults to generate common adjectives when instructed to do so. In both age groups, common adjective encodings produced superior free recall and distinctive adjective encodings produced superior cued recall. The results suggest that (1) elderly adults are as capable as young adults of generating distinctive encoding context cues when instructed to do so, and (2) age-related encoding differences occur in the processing of distinctive properties of the stimulus items themselves rather than in the utilization of cues generated during study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-146
Number of pages6
JournalExperimental Aging Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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