Autobiographical and text recall in the elderly: An investigation of a processing resource deficit.

Carol Holland, Patrick Rabbitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined different explanations of age-related impairments in recall of details from text and autobiographical events. An interpretation of Central Executive Capacity Deficit was supported and explored further. This suggests that details are more demanding of capacity than main points, and that ability to appropriately integrate details with context is likely to be impaired. An implication was that irrelevant and false information may occur, and this was supported in both autobiographical and text recall. The effects were then examined in relation to various measures of ability. The aim was to determine whether declining capacity (as indicated by "Fluid Intelligence" measures) predicted ability to recall in a detailed manner. The difficulty with details was predicted independently by chronological age and by measures of fluid (e.g. AH4 intelligence test) and the more crystallized verbal ability (Mill Hill vocabulary test). Only a measure of the specificity of autobiographical recall was predicted solely by measures of fluid intelligence. Decreased specificity was not a result of faster decay of memory for details, as there was little difference across the lifespan. The resource deficit appears to affect retrieval and appropriate implementation of detail. It was concluded that lower-ability elderly subjects have decreased Central Executive resources, which leads to poor (often inappropriate) integration of details with central thematic points, but that subjects' verbal ability, which does not decline with age, still has an important part to play.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-470
Number of pages20
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology A
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1990


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