them a try. The reader may well ask what relation exists between a simple laboratory task, such as learning a list of paired associates, and a complex real-world task, such as learning a word processing program. The answer depends on the application. Next, I discuss three applications in more detail.
To begin, consider the application just mentioned, the learning of a new word processing program. All word processing programs require the user to activate a sequence of icons or keystrokes in order to execute a given function. The stimulus in this case is the function that the user wants to execute. The response is the sequence of icons or keystrokes. The identical analysis quickly convinces me, and I hope the reader, that ATMS, voice mail, and other related applications are in large part just paired associate tasks. Second, consider the myriad of continuing education courses in which older adults enthusiastically enroll. Much of the material that is learned is factual: parts of the anatomy (the stimuli) must be linked to their names (the responses), works of art (the stimuli) must be joined to particular artists (the responses), and so on. Finally, consider the actual retraining of older adults in the workplace for new jobs. Again, much new remains to be learned and this new material typically requires long hours of memorization.
In all of the preceding cases, the time it takes older adults to learn the material could be reduced, sometimes by upwards of 50%, if the analyses reported here generalize beyond the laboratory. Such reductions may open a world of opportunity to older adults. The studies that need to be undertaken in order to realize this opportunity follow clearly from the material discussed in this chapter. Conferences like the one from which this chapter evolved will prove to be an important stimulus to such studies.
The research was supported in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIA No. R01AG12461) to the author.