Aging in Society: Selected Reviews of Recent Research

By Matilda White Riley; Beth B. Hess et al. | Go to book overview

11
Learning and Memory through Adulthood1

Marion Perlmutter University of Minnesota

Age-related changes in adult learning and memory have received considerable attention from experimental psychologists, who traditionally focus on these topics, as well as clinical psychologists, who often treat failing memory among older adults. In general, research issues have been framed within the theoretical models dominant in experimental psychology -- that is, associationism in the 1950's and 1960's, and information processing in the 1970's and the early 1980's. Several issues have also emerged from the clinical perspective.

Conceptually, learning and memory can be differentiated. Learning refers to the acquisition of information or skill as a result of experience; memory involves the retrieval of information or skill learned previously. Experimentally, however, it is difficult, if not impossible, for learning and memory to be separated. For subjects to demonstrate learning, they must have memory, and for memory to be demonstrated, learning must have occurred. Thus, for the purposes of this paper, learning and memory will be considered together. First, research findings concerning age differences in adult learning and memory are described and analyzed. Then, some of the factors that may contribute to the cognitive processes which may explain these differences are discussed.


EVIDENCE OF AGE DIFFERENCES IN ADULT
LEARNING AND MEMORY

Information Processing Model and Experimental Methodology

During the last decade or two, information processing models have dominated experimental psychology and its research on learning and memory. Very briefly, learning and memory are viewed as time-based processes that transfer informa-

____________________
1
The author is grateful to Jack Botwinick, Fergus I. M. Craik, and Elizabeth Loftus for their critical reading of an earlier version of this paper.

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