The effects of aging on a measure of prospective remembering using naturalistic stimuli



The aim of this study was to determine the effect of age on the noticing and memory search stages of a prospective memory task. Three groups (n=30) of older, middle-aged, and younger persons were compared on a task using naturalistic stimuli, designed to simulate prospective remembering in everyday life. Participants were given a list of 30 instructions, each comprising an action (e.g. [Buy a hamburger]) and associated cue (e.g. [At McDonalds]). They then watched a videotape showing the view a person would have walking along a city street and attempted to recall each task when the cue appeared. The key finding was that older participants had a disproportionate reduction in recall of actions relative to cues noticed compared to both younger and middle-aged participants. Although the older group were significantly less likely to notice cues than were the younger participants, noticing was preserved relative to memory search. The implication of this is that noticing complex and naturalistic visual cues in a shopping environment may rely primarily on automatic memory processes, whereas memory search depends on more strategic and conscious memory processes. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.