The retrieval context of intervening tasks influences subsequent memory in younger and older adults

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Background/Study Context: What people remember can be shaped by how they access and evaluate their memories as well as by events that happen after the original experience. This study examined how thinking about events in different ways after their occurrence can influence younger and older adults’ memory for what really occurred. Methods: Younger adults (ages 18–22) and older adults (ages 65–88) saw and imagined pictures of objects and later evaluated each object 0, 1, or 3 times on a task that either required them to remember the objects in a general way (old or new?), in a more specific manner (perceived, imagined, or new?), or that required thinking about objects without regard to whether or how they were earlier experienced (e.g., judging their function or frequency in everyday life). Results: Results showed that probing items multiple times on the intervening tasks increased the number of items younger and older adults successfully remembered later but also increased source misattributions of claiming to have seen objects that were really imagined, with older adults showing lower recall but higher source errors. Exposure to items on the nonretrieval intervening tasks negatively affected later source memory, and remembering items without explicitly considering their source increased source errors even more that did the non-retrieval-based intervening tasks. Conclusions: These findings illustrate the negative impact of thinking about and nondiscriminately remembering past events on subsequent memory accuracy.


Copyright 2014 Taylor and Francis

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Experimental aging research

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Henkel, L. A. (2014). The retrieval context of intervening tasks influences subsequent memory in younger and older adults. Experimental aging research, 40(5), 555-577. doi:10.1080/0361073X.2014.956622



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