Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Age Differences in Explicit Memory of Crimes and Source Monitoring Ability: Adolescents and Young Adults

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Age Differences in Explicit Memory of Crimes and Source Monitoring Ability: Adolescents and Young Adults

Article excerpt

The current study explored age differences in cognitive abilities between adolescents and young adults. This is believed to be needed, as there is a dearth of research comparing adolescents to young adults on measures of memory for forensically-relevant events and source monitoring ability, particularly with the age ranges included in this study. If we are to know and understand the developmental trajectory of advances in memory and source monitoring ability, we must examine age differences in these abilities throughout the lifespan. Advances in the processes of encoding and retrieving information and also changes in brain physiology may contribute to age-related differences in these abilities. Particularly within legal settings it is helpful to know what can reasonably be expected in terms of the recall abilities of adolescents. Developmental differences have been displayed in studies comparing similar age groups on various measures of memory ability.

Explicit Memory

In one such study, Parente (2001) compared seventh and eighth-graders to college students on a measure of explicit memory. Explicit memory pertains to conscious recollections and may be tested with measures such as free recall and cued recall of previously-presented stimuli. Parente measured explicit memory by having her participants read a list of words and recall as many as they could; the total number of correctly recalled words served as the data on this measure. The college students' explicit memory scores were significantly higher than the junior high students' explicit memory scores.

Adams (1991) found significant differences between age groups with little discrepancy in age when she compared levels of accurate recall pertaining to memory for text. This researcher used a sample which included four age groups and assessed memory with the use of a narrative which the participants were asked to read. After a short filler task, participants were asked to write down as much as they could remember. The recollections were coded for the total number of accurate complete idea units (the expression of a single idea, action, or state) and these scores were compared between the age groups. Adams referred to the sample as young adolescents (12-15 years), older adolescents (16-19 years), middle-aged adults (39-56 years), and older adults (60-78 years) and found that the older adolescents and the middle-aged adults had significantly higher mean scores than the younger adolescents and the older adults. Specifically, pertaining to the expectation of the current study for finding differences between two groups which do not differ greatly in age, Adams found the 16- to 19-year-old group displayed a significantly higher level of recall compared to the 12- to 15-year-old group.

In a study that focused on the development of memory abilities during adolescence, Ryan (1990) compared age groups across adolescence, namely, 12- to 14-year-olds, 14- to 16-year-olds, and 16- to 19-year-olds. Ryan mentioned the need for research in the area of memory efficiency which compares such close age ranges, as most studies "focus on the extremes of the age continuum" and studies which investigate age differences in memory "rarely include normal subjects between ages of 12 and 18" (p.193). Ryan found that the 16- to 19-yearolds performed significantly better on a measure of short term memory (word list recall) and a forward digit span task compared to the 12- to 14year-olds. Although these age differences in memory ability were not found with measures of long term memory as would be assessed by the current study, Ryan's work nonetheless points out the importance of exploring age differences within small increments of age.

The current study utilized a video of two crimes being committed as the stimuli participants were asked to recall. Other forensically relevant studies have also investigated age differences. Marin, Holmes, Guth and Kovak (1979) found that 7th and 8th graders in their sample recalled fewer details compared to college students pertaining to a staged argument that they had seen the researcher and a confederate engage in. …

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