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Age-related differences in the use of spatial and categorical relationships in a visuo-spatial working memory task

Age-related differences in the use of spatial and categorical relationships in a visuo-spatial working memory task

Memory and Cognition 46(5): 809-825

Research examining object identity and location processing in visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM) has yielded inconsistent results on whether age differences exist in VSWM. The present study investigated whether these inconsistencies may stem from age-related differences in VSWM sub-processes, and whether processing of component VSWM information can be facilitated. In two experiments, younger and older adults studied 5 × 5 grids containing five objects in separate locations. In a continuous recognition paradigm, participants were tested on memory for object identity, location, or identity and location information combined. Spatial and categorical relationships were manipulated within grids to provide trial-level facilitation. In Experiment 1, randomizing trial types (location, identity, combination) assured that participants could not predict the information that would be queried. In Experiment 2, blocking trials by type encouraged strategic processing. Thus, we manipulated the nature of the task through object categorical relationship and spatial organization, and trial blocking. Our findings support age-related declines in VSWM. Additionally, grid organizations (categorical and spatial relationships), and trial blocking differentially affected younger and older adults. Younger adults used spatial organizations more effectively whereas older adults demonstrated an association bias. Our finding also suggests that older adults may be less efficient than younger adults in strategically engaging information processing.

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Accession: 045573344

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PMID: 29383599

DOI: 10.3758/s13421-018-0794-8

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