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This study examined the role of aging in the recall and recognition of autobiographical memories. Young and older adults submitted personal events during a period of 3 months to an Internet diary. After this period, they performed a cued- recall test based on what, who, and where retrieval cues. Three months later, participants completed a recognition test in which the descriptions of half the entries were altered. The results indicated no age differences on the cued-recall task, but several age differences on the recognition task. Older adults were more susceptible to accept altered entries as authentic, particularly when these changes had been subtle. However, despite their lower performance, older adults were more confident with the accuracy of their decisions. The results suggest that different mechanisms underlie the recall and recognition of autobiographical memories, and that only tasks that subtly tap into source monitoring abilities are affected by cognitive aging processes. Keywords aging, autobiographical memory, source monitoring, cued recall, recognition Many adults experience declines in memory with increasing (Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993). News about a hos- age (e.g., Murre, Janssen, Rouw, & Meeter, 2013). This tage situation, for instance, could come from television, the change is particularly true for the recollection of specific Internet, or a friend. If this event happened some time ago aspects of past experiences (e.g., Dennis, Bowman, & and several plausible alternatives for the original source are Peterson, 2013; Nyberg et al., 2003). These declines corre- available, determining the source may be particularly diffi- spond with age-related changes in the brain, such as a cult. A person may remember to have first heard the news on decrease in the prefrontal cortex volume and changes in gray television, whereas the information was in fact learned from matter volume and density (Martinelli et al., 2013; Raz & the Internet. Rodrigue, 2006). Research has shown that older adults experience more However, cognitive declines with aging are not found difficulty in determining the correct source of information consistently across memory studies. Whereas studies that than young adults (Norman & Schacter, 1997). McDonough require participants to access or recollect perceptual infor- and Gallo (2013) examined real past and possible future mation report substantial effects of aging (Gras, Tardieu, events generated by younger and older adults. In the first Piolino, & Nicolas, 2011; Henkel, Johnson, & De Leonardis, phase of the study, participants elaborated on half of the 1998), these effects are absent in studies in which retrieval is events by providing perceptual details. In the second phase, supported by cues and schemas (Hess & Flannagan, 1992; participants were presented with non-elaborated and elabo- Kristo, Janssen, & Murre, 2009). This discrepancy suggests rated events in a recollection test, in which they had to verify that different mechanisms might underlie the recognition and the source of the event. Older adults not only had a higher recall of autobiographical memories. In the present study, we proportion of misattributions on the recollection test than therefore examined the differential effects of aging on two younger adults, but, in addition, elaboration did not mini- autobiographical memory tasks, a recognition and a cued- mize these misattributions for them. recall test. Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands The University of Nottingham–Malaysia Campus, Semenyih, Malaysia Recognition Corresponding Author: After retirement age, many adults experience declines in Steve M. J. Janssen, School of Psychology, The University of Nottingham– source monitoring ability. Source monitoring entails the pro- Malaysia Campus, B1B21, Jalan Broga, 43500 Semenyih, Selangor, Malaysia. Email: email@example.com cess of remembering from where information originated Creative Commons CC-BY: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage). 2 SAGE Open Other studies have demonstrated similar age-related for other memory tasks, such as semantic memory. Piolino, declines in source monitoring. Older adults produced more Desgranges, Benali, and Eustache (2002) had young and thoughts and feelings for imagined (e.g., imagining you vis- older adults recall episodic details of recent and remote per- ited a seminar room) and experienced (e.g., actually visiting a sonal events as well as semantic personal information (e.g., seminar room) events than young adults, who in turn reported names) from the same time periods. Episodic recall was more perceptual and spatial information about the two kinds of found to decline more over time with age than semantic events (Hashtroudi, Johnson, & Chrosniak, 1990). Whereas recall. A similar result was obtained by Levine, Svoboda, the recollection of perceptual and spatial information helped to Hay, Winocur, and Moscovitch (2002), in which young identify the source of the memory, the recollection of thoughts adults produced more episodic details for autobiographical and feelings did not improve source monitoring. Other studies memories than older adults, whereas semantic details were have demonstrated a similar impaired ability among older produced in equal quantities among young and older adults. adults to access perceptual, spatial, and temporal details of In this study, specific probes about the event, time, place, memories (e.g., Gras et al., 2011; Henkel et al., 1998). sensory information, and emotion contributed to a reduction A lowered ability to access perceptual, spatial, and temporal of age differences in episodic richness for memories from the details of an original event among older adults may be exacer- past year. Such probes may function as a form of support that bated when the original event is relatively remote, misinforma- reduces age differences in the retrieval of episodic details. tion is presented, or participants are instructed to elaborate on The effect of retrieval support on autobiographical mem- misleading details. Frost, Ingraham, and Wilson (2002) dem- ory recall with cues (who, what, where, when) taken from the onstrated that misinformation acceptance increased over longer original report has been demonstrated to aid the recall of the time periods and when participants were encouraged to men- remainder of the memory in studies with young adults (Burt, tally reconstruct the initial event or visualize misleading details. 1992), older adults (Catal & Fitzgerald, 2004), and both In Dijkstra and Misirlisoy (2009), older adults performed a young and older adults (Dijkstra & Misirlisoy, 2006; Kristo recognition task of altered memories submitted 1 year earlier. et al., 2009). These studies demonstrated better performance Substantial false recognition rates of altered memories (39%) with the what retrieval cue than with other retrieval cues were found, especially when the reported events were remote (Burt, 1992; Catal & Fitzgerald, 2004), equal facilitation of and the altered reports contained changes not essential to the the what and who cue (Dijkstra & Misirlisoy, 2006; Kristo content of the memory. False recognition of foil events was et al., 2009), and better performance with multiple cues than also found to increase in a diary study among college students with one retrieval cue (Wagenaar, 1986). Together, these with an increase in delay and when foils and original records findings support the idea that retrieval cues may help rein- were semantically similar (Barclay & Wellman, 1986). state access to details of the original experience, and hence, In short, results of studies using various source monitor- support accurate retrieval of the memory and its details. ing and recognition tasks have demonstrated converging evi- dence on memory deficits under certain experimental The Present Study conditions (i.e., remote events, similarity between original and altered or foil events) and in older age. This memory Because of the contrasting results with regard to age differ- deficit does not appear to be a general impairment in older ences in source monitoring and recognition in comparison adults but a more limited ability to access details of the origi- with cued-recall tests with retrieval support, the present nal experience, particularly for remote events. One or two study sought to examine these differential effects of aging subtle (peripheral) changes in the memory report would more closely using a diary study. Using diary entries as a hardly affect the reconstruction process, whereas one or two memory base enables the assessment of veridical recall of substantial (central) changes would (Dijkstra & Misirlisoy, earlier submitted entries as well as recollection accuracy of 2009). Moreover, with changes in peripheral details, the cor- authentic and altered diary entries. Moreover, potential con- rect decision would involve judgments based on verbatim founds with regard to the remoteness of memories and the information from the original reports, whereas central type of memories (everyday vs. unique memories) across age changes alter the gist of the experience. As older adults tend groups could be avoided. to base their decisions more on gist than on verbatim infor- All diary entries were personal events reported in the mation (because this strategy is less demanding on atten- same frequency (i.e., three or four events per week) and tional resources), central changes would be noticeable for within the same time frame (i.e., 3 months) by young and older adults whereas peripheral changes may go unnoticed older adults. After this period, participants performed a cued- (Koutstaal & Schacter, 1997). recall test based on what, who, and where retrieval cues. We presented the cued-recall test immediately after the record- ing phase to prevent potential floor effects for this relatively Cued Recall difficult test. Three months later, participants completed a In contrast to the established age deficit in source monitoring recognition test in which the descriptions of half the entries and recognition, there is evidence for relative age invariance were altered. Retention time was set at 6 months after the Dijkstra and Janssen 3 start of the diary entry phase to prevent potential ceiling study complied with the requirements from the ethics com- effects for this relatively easy task. mittee of the Erasmus University and consolidated standards We expected differential effects of aging on the two auto- on reporting trials. Participants had to have access to email biographical memory tasks. No differences were expected and the Internet, be willing to come to the laboratory twice, between the age groups in the performance on the cued-recall and be prepared to keep a diary for 3 months. Twenty-seven task, because previous research indicated similar benefits young adults and 32 older adults started the study, but from retrieval support for young and older adults (Dijkstra & two young adults and eight older adults dropped out, leaving Misirlisoy, 2009). There were, however, differences pre- 25 young adults (M age = 20.60 years, SD = 2.61 years, range dicted with regard to the efficacy of cues (e.g., Lancaster & = 18-26 years) and 24 older adults (M age = 65.90 years, SD Barsalou, 1997). Better retrieval was predicted with multiple = 3.06 years, range = 60-71 years). The group of young adults retrieval cues over single retrieval cues (cf. Wagenaar, 1986), consisted of 22 female and three male participants, whereas because multiple cues contain a larger part of the reconstruc- the group of older adults consisted of 19 female and five male tion of the memory. Moreover, what cues were expected to participants. be more successful than other cues, because they contribute To identify any memory problems, all participants took more to the reconstruction of the original experience (the the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE; Folstein, event itself) than where and who cues (Burt, 1992; Catal & Folstein, & McHugh, 1975), but all participants were Fitzgerald, 2004). The when cue was not included in the above the cutoff of 26 (maximum = 30). Furthermore, the study, because earlier findings have shown that this retrieval age groups did not differ significantly on memory span cue is not helpful (Dijkstra & Misirlisoy, 2006). scores (M = 5.42, SD = 0.77 vs. M = 5.06, SD = 0.71, p = However, age differences were predicted in the perfor- .094) and verbal fluency scores (M = 14.3, SD = 4.9 vs. M mance on the recognition task, because source monitoring is = 14.5, SD = 4.5, p = .847). Thus, with regard to cognitive involved. A recognition task for an earlier report of an event functioning, the older adults were comparable with the that may contain alterations not only requires access to the young adults. source of the original experience. It involves the additional step of an evaluation of the given report in comparison with Materials and Procedure what is remembered from the original experience. The detec- tion of subtle alterations is highly taxing on cognitive The study consisted of four stages. At the beginning of the resources that are in shorter supply with older adults. study, participants came to the laboratory for an initial testing Therefore, age differences were expected in the acceptance session. During this session, the participants first completed of peripheral changes that did not alter the memory itself the MMSE, a verbal fluency task, and a memory span task. relative to central changes that altered the memory. In addi- Subsequently, the procedure for recording personal events in tion, age differences were expected when there was only one an online diary was explained. These events had to be spe- change in the altered report as two changes would be more cific (i.e., not have taken more than several hours) and recent noticeable. No age differences were expected for unaltered (i.e., occurred that day or up to 2 days before). The descrip- entries, because no comparison with altered details would be tions had to be at least 40 words long and contain what, who, needed (Koutstaal & Schacter, 1997; Koutstaal, Schacter, and where components. The participants also had to provide Galluccio, & Stofer, 1999). ratings, such as the frequency of occurrence (ranging from In short, the current study examined the role of age in once per day to once in a lifetime) and the intensity of the cued recall and recognition accuracy for authentic and altered emotional reaction during the event (ranging from com- diary entries. Additional areas of interest were the confi- pletely unemotional to extremely emotional), on 7-point dence level with which the recognition decisions were made scales. Participants practiced entering one or two personal to obtain a deeper understanding of the relative ease of the events on the website. The descriptions and the ratings of decision-making process. Age differences in these outcomes these events were checked immediately to ensure that the would support the idea of different mechanisms underlying participants fully understood the recording procedure. The the recall and recognition of autobiographical memory. participants left with instructions on how to continue these diary entries. For 3 months, participants recorded three or four personal Method events per week. During this period, entries were regularly checked to ensure that participants kept recording a suffi- Participants cient number of events. When this was not the case (and this Participants in this study were recruited among students and happened only occasionally), participants received an email, adults aged 60 and above who lived in or near the city of encouraging them to increase their recording rate. At the end Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Students received course credit, of the recording phase, participants were contacted to set the whereas older adults volunteered their participation. Informed time and date of the second session at the laboratory, where consent was obtained from all participants. Moreover, the further testing would occur. 4 SAGE Open During the second session, participants completed a cued- adults contained fewer characters (M = 360.9, SD = 60.2) recall test, in which the activity (what), people (who), and than those from older adults (M = 471.5, SD = 131.5), t(45) location (where) of the events were used as cues. Participants = 3.78, p < .001, Cohen’s d = 0.974, 95% CI = [51.71, were initially presented with one of the three possible cues of 169.46]. Moreover, young adults recorded more frequently a previously submitted event (e.g., who had been involved) occurring events (M = 3.60, SD = 0.49) than older adults (M and asked to give the remaining two (e.g., what the event was = 4.52, SD = 0.52), t(45) = 6.29, p < .001, Cohen’s d = 1.356, about and where it had happened). After the first question, 95% CI = [0.626, 1.216]. These properties could potentially the participant was presented with two cues and asked to affect performance on the cued-recall and the recognition give the remaining one (cf. Kristo et al., 2009). test. The results reported below were therefore also tested Questions about 18 personal events (about half the total with multilevel analyses (Wright, 1998). Although the length number of events that had been submitted) had to be of the descriptions and frequency of occurrence of the per- answered. The events were divided on the basis of their date sonal events varied, none of the results reported below of occurrence over three time periods (i.e., first six, middle changed because of this variation. six, and last six) and the presentation order of the cues was To ensure that differential findings of aging would not be counterbalanced over these time periods. Scores for cued caused by the time of the test, we calculated the correlations recall were calculated as follows: 2 points for a correct between the scores and the age of the events on the individ- answer, 1 point for a partly correct or less specific answer, ual trials of the cued-recall and the recognition test and com- and 0 points for an incorrect answer or no answer. As two pared these correlations across the age groups. The scores on answers could be provided after one cue (e.g., if the cue was trials of the cued-recall test were affected by age of the event. who, answers had to be provided for what and where) and Events were between 2 and 106 days old (M = 41.8 days), only one answer after two cues (e.g., if the cues were who and events that had happened recently were remembered bet- and where, an answer had to be provided for what), a maxi- ter than events that had happened longer ago, r(846) = −.165, mum of 4 points could be earned when one retrieval cue had p < .001. This effect of event age was present in both young been provided and a maximum of 2 points when two retrieval adults, r(450) = −.186, p < .001, and older adults, r(396) = cues had been provided. −.152, p = .002. These two correlations did not differ from Three months after the second session (M = 93.8 days), each other, Z = −0.51, p = .610. Unlike the cued-recall test, participants were contacted again, this time to complete an the scores on the trials of the recognition test were not online recognition test. For this test (cf. Dijkstra & Misirlisoy, affected by age of the event. The events were between 83 and 2009), participants were presented with 16 descriptions of 218 days old (M = 137.1 days), but events that had happened earlier recorded events. Events that had been used in the more recently were not remembered better than events that cued-recall test were not used in the recognition test. Half of had happened longer ago, r(736) = −.044, p = .230. When the the 16 descriptions were unaltered entries; the other half had effect of event age was examined separately for young and been altered with plausible substitutes. In four altered older adults, neither correlation was significant, r(368) = descriptions, one or two peripheral details were altered (e.g., −.017, p = .751 and r(368) = −.058, p = .264. These two cor- I wore my hair in a ponytail/hanging down when I went to relations did not differ from each other, Z = −0.55, p = .582. the ball) and, in the four remaining altered descriptions, one Because the correlations did not differ between the age or two central elements related to the gist of the event were groups, any differential findings of aging on the cued-recall altered (e.g., I had an exam today about statistics at the uni- and the recognition test will not be caused by the time of the versity. It went a lot better/worse than expected). Participants test. indicated whether the presented descriptions were exactly the same as the descriptions they had entered (yes or no), Cued-Recall Test how confident they were in this decision (on a 5-point scale ranging from not confident at all to highly confident), and The first hypothesis predicted age invariance on the cued- how often they had talked and thought about the events on recall test. However, differential effectiveness of retrieval 7-point scales. cues and better retrieval on the cued-recall test with more than one retrieval cue were expected. Retrieval after what cues were expected to facilitate retrieval over who and where Results cues, because these cues have better reconstruction proper- To assess whether the events used in the cued-recall and the ties. Furthermore, after two retrieval cues, the provided con- recognition test were similar across age groups, comparisons text should sufficiently aid participants to reinstate the initial were made on the diary entry ratings. As could be expected, experience. properties of the experiences recorded in the online diary To assess the effect of the number of cues, a repeated- were similar across age groups (ps ≥ .057). Age differences measures ANOVA was conducted, in which age group was were only found for the length of the descriptions and the the between-subjects factor and the number of cues was the frequency of occurrence ratings. Descriptions from young within-subjects factor. The results demonstrated a main Dijkstra and Janssen 5 Table 1. Mean and Standard Deviation of the Corrected Score After One or Two Cues (Top Panel) and of the Score When the What, the Who or the Where Cue Was Given First (Bottom Panel) on the Cued-Recall Test for Young, Older, and All Adults. Young adults Older adults All adults Corrected score Score after 0.54 (0.14) 0.59 (0.16) 0.56 (0.15) one cue Score after 0.73 (0.11) 0.74 (0.10) 0.73 (0.10) two cues Score Score what 17.6 (3.95) 17.4 (3.47) 17.5 (3.60) cue first Figure 1. Cued-recall scores with standard errors of the mean Score who 10.0 (5.81) 11.4 (6.85) 10.5 (6.12) after one retrieval cue for each cue word type and age group. cue first Score where 11.6 (4.02) 13.7 (5.30) 12.6 (4.75) authentic), false alarms (altered entries recognized as authen- cue first tic), misses or incorrect rejections (authentic entries recog- Corrected for the maximum score. nized as not authentic), and correct rejections (altered entries correctly recognized as not authentic). Participants could accurately distinguish between authentic and altered entries effect of the number of cues on the score (see Table 1), F(1, (d’ = 0.680). Young adults did not outperform older adults (p 45) = 59.13, p < .001, = .568. After one cue, participants = .073). Judging from the criterion, all participants were recalled relatively less information than after two cues. There inclined to consider entries as authentic (c = −0.360), but this was, as expected, neither a main effect of age group (p = tendency was stronger among older adults, indicating that .447) nor an age group by number of cues interaction effect they had a stronger bias, t(44) = 2.29, p = .027, Cohen’s d = (p = .352). Both age groups had similar benefits from one 0.646, 95% CI = [0.073, 1.136]. retrieval cue and improved their performance in the same An age group by type of entry ANOVA yielded a main way after two retrieval cues. effect of type of entry (authentic vs. altered) on recognition With regard to the type of retrieval cue used, differences accuracy (i.e., proportion of correct answers), F(1, 44) = were found in how effective the cues were for retrieval. An 24.45, p < .001, = .357. The main effect of age group (p age group by type of cue ANOVA indicated a main effect of = .149) and the interaction between type of entry and age type of cue, F(1, 45) = 47.16, p < .001, = .512. Figure 1 group (p = .065) were not significant. shows the average scores after one retrieval cue for each cue An age group by type of alteration ANOVA revealed a type and age group. Performance after one cue (maximum = main effect of type of alteration, F(1, 44) = 38.34, p < .001, 24) was, as expected, better with the what than with the who = .466 (see Table 2). Participants performed, as pre- cue, t(46) = 6.86, p < .001, Cohen’s d = 1.001, 95% CI = dicted, better on authentic entries than entries with central [4.842, 8.860], or the where cue, t(46) = 6.86, p < .001, changes, t(45) = 2.80, p = .007, Cohen’s d = 0.413, 95% CI = Cohen’s d = 1.001, 95% CI = [3.473, 6.357]. More impor- [0.047, 0.285], and entries with peripheral changes, t(45) = tantly, there was, as expected, neither a main effect of age 5.92, p < .001, Cohen’s d = 0.873, 95% CI = [0.228, 0.463]. group (p = .294) nor an interaction effect between age group Participants also performed, as predicted, better on entries and type of cue (p = .107). Young and older adults had simi- with central changes than entries with peripheral changes, lar benefits from the three types of cues. t(45) = 3.58, p = .001, Cohen’s d = 0.527, 95% CI = [0.078, 0.280], suggesting that central changes were easier to iden- Recognition Test tify. There was no main effect of age group (p = .060), but the interaction between type of alteration and age group was sig- In contrast to the cued-recall test, the second hypothesis pre- nificant, F(1, 44) = 5.25, p = .027, = .107. Figure 2 shows dicted age differences on the recognition test. Specifically, the results of this analysis. As expected, older adults had age-related differences in recognition were expected for the more difficulties recognizing subtle changes. Age differ- type of entry, the type of alteration, and the number of altera- ences were absent when there were no changes (p = .513) or tions with age differences predicted for subtler and fewer central changes (p = .302), but there was an age difference changes. when peripheral details had been changed, t(44) = 2.62, p = We first examined how well participants could distinguish .012, Cohen’s d = 0.727, 95% CI = [0.050, 0.385]. between authentic and altered entries by calculating the d′ Similar results were found when the number of alterations and response bias of both groups (see Table 2). Answers was examined in relation to age group. There was a main were scored as hits (authentic entries correctly recognized as 6 SAGE Open Table 2. Accuracy, Mean, and Standard Deviation of the Proportion Correct and the Confidence Levels, and Rehearsal of Young, Older, and All Adults on the Recognition Test. Young adults Older adults All adults Accuracy d′ 0.888 0.557 0.680 Bias −0.196 −0.484 −0.360 Proportion correct Authentic 0.74 (0.20) 0.78 (0.19) 0.76 (0.19) Altered 0.58 (0.22) 0.42 (0.27) 0.50 (0.26) Central change 0.64 (0.24) 0.54 (0.37) 0.59 (0.32) Peripheral change 0.52 (0.29) 0.30 (0.27) 0.41 (0.30) Two changes 0.66 (0.26) 0.46 (0.31) 0.56 (0.30) One change 0.50 (0.27) 0.39 (0.28) 0.45 (0.28) Confidence Authentic 3.55 (0.51) 4.17 (0.37) 3.86 (0.54) Altered 3.96 (0.51) 4.23 (0.30) 4.10 (0.43) Rehearsal Reminiscing 2.51 (1.15) 2.64 (1.16) 2.57 (1.14) Social sharing 2.32 (0.97) 2.39 (0.83) 2.35 (0.90) expect lower performance to coincide with lower confi- dence. Surprisingly, older adults were more confident than young adults regarding their decisions even though their accuracy rates were lower. An age group by type of entry ANOVA on the confidence ratings indicated a main effect of type of entry (authentic vs. altered), F(1, 44) = 12.98, p = .001, = .228, a main effect of age group, F(1, 44) = 16.97, p < .001, = .278, and an age group by type of entry interaction, F(1, 44) = 7.11, p = .011, = .139. Figure 3 shows the results of this analysis. There were no age differences in the extent to which par- ticipants had talked and thought about the personal events they had entered into the diary (p = .721 and p = .777, respec- Figure 2. Recognition accuracy with standard errors of the tively). The age differences for recognition accuracy and mean for each type of alteration and age group. confidence levels can therefore not be explained by differ- ences in rehearsal. effect of the number of alterations, F(1, 44) = 33.50, p < .001, p = .432, but no main effect of age group (p = .060). Discussion Participants performed, as predicted, better on authentic entries than entries with two changes, t(45) = 3.39, p = .001, The present study examined differential effects of aging on Cohen’s d = 0.500, 95% CI = [0.081, 0.316], and entries with cued-recall and recognition tasks. No age differences were one change, t(45) = 5.73, p < .001, Cohen’s d = 0.845, 95% expected for the cued-recall task, because retrieval support CI = [0.203, 0.422]. In addition, participants performed, as was hypothesized to benefit young and older adults equally. predicted, better on entries with two changes than entries Age differences were, however, predicted for the recognition with one change, t(45) = 2.96, p = .005, Cohen’s d = 0.436, of subtly altered components as it involves source monitor- 95% CI = [0.036, 0.192], suggesting that multiple changes ing, a task on which older adults typically perform worse were easier to identify than single changes. Importantly, than young adults. there was, as predicted, an interaction between the number of The predictions regarding cued recall were supported by alterations and age group, F(1, 44) = 4.62, p = .037, p = the data. There, as expected, were no age differences, but .095, but, besides no age difference for no change (p = .513), there were differences for the number of cues (one vs. two) it demonstrated an age difference for two changes, t(44) = and the type of cue (what vs. where and who). Multiple 2.47, p = .017, Cohen’s d = 0.390, 95% CI = [0.038, 0.375], retrieval cues yielded better performance than single cues, rather than for one change (p = .189). because more details became available for recall. Moreover, Additional analyses were conducted on the confidence what cues facilitated cued recall more than who and where ratings regarding the recognition decisions. One would cues. Retrieval is more difficult for everyday events than, for Dijkstra and Janssen 7 difficulties than young adults recognizing one change, but they actually performed worse when there had been two changes. Surprisingly, older adults seemed not to be aware of this deficit in evaluating subtle changes in their reports, because their confidence ratings were higher than those of young adults, even though the latter group performed better on this task. Changes seemed subtle enough that older adults did not notice them and were certain about decisions regarding the authenticity of the entries. Apparently, older adults are less able to reflect upon their own memory performance. Inflated confidence judgments in older adults have been demonstrated before. Karpel, Hoyer, and Toglia (2001) examined age differences in the qualitative characteristics of real and suggested memories. Young and older participants Figure 3. Mean confidence levels with standard errors of the watched one or two sequences of slides depicting a theft. mean for each type of entry and age group. After a 15-min filler task, they were asked questions about objects and events from the slides and indicated their confi- example, for unique events, because they do not stand out in dence in the answers. Two questions contained misleading distinctiveness. Therefore, it is not surprising that the what information suggesting the presence of certain objects. Two cue turned out to be the most effective cue as it allows a more rounds of questions followed, in which participants reconstruction along a more central component of the origi- were asked about the presence of real and suggested objects, nal event (what happened) than components that might be the confidence in their answer, and the vividness of the mem- less essential to the event, such as the location of the event ory for the objects. As expected, older adults indicated that (where it happened) or other people who were involved they had seen the suggested objects more often than younger (when it happened). adults, demonstrating less efficient source monitoring. These findings support earlier results with regard to the Despite their lower performance, older adults gave higher use of different type or different number of retrieval cues ratings of confidence and vividness. An explanation could be (Burt, 1992; Catal & Fitzgerald, 2004; Wagenaar, 1986). The that older adults may be more vulnerable to a possible inter- contribution of our findings to the literature is that, for recent ference of newly introduced information that competes with everyday memories, content-based retrieval cues that directly original information. relate to the most important components of the memories Another possibility is that overconfidence in older adults (Dijkstra & Misirlisoy, 2006) substantially aid recall, regard- may be related to the task instructions. For example, larger less of the age of the person remembering the event. This age differences have been found for intuitive than probability result is an important finding, because older adults tend to confidence judgments (Hansson, Rönnlund, Juslin, & report fewer details of autobiographical memories Nilsson, 2008). Older adults may think intuitively that they (McDonough & Gallo, 2013), yet they performed similar to perform just as well as their younger counterparts, but, when their younger counterparts on the cued-recall task when they are forced to evaluate the specifics of the task and judge retrieval support was provided in our study. their actual performance in detail, their confidence may drop Age differences were predicted for the recognition of to more realistic levels. Another possibility may be that older altered entries as it involved a form of source monitoring that participants are more optimistic regarding their recognition is generally more taxing on available cognitive resources and performance, because they are not often tested on their actual more susceptible to errors among older adults than young performance in real life, whereas younger participants, who adults. As expected, there was no age difference regarding are mostly psychology students, are tested on their actual per- authentic entries, with all participants being able to correctly formance regularly (i.e., exams and research participation). recognize their own entries submitted several months ago. The combined results showed that there were no age Evaluating authentic entries is less taxing on cognitive effects on the initial cued-recall test but that there were resources than evaluating altered entries, because the origi- effects on the subsequent recognition test. It is possible that nal and evaluated entries are identical. Older adults were, as this interaction between age group and type of test actually hypothesized, indeed biased to consider subtly altered entries reflects an interaction between age group and time of test. It as authentic and, therefore, less accurate in determining the could be that young and older adults show no differences on authenticity for entries with peripheral changes. With regard how well they remember personal events that have happened to substantial changes (central or multiple changes), all par- between 2 and 106 days ago but that they display differences ticipants were generally accurate in noticing these changes. on how well they remember personal events that have hap- We had also predicted that older adults would have more pened between 83 and 218 days ago. However, when we 8 SAGE Open calculated the correlations between the scores and the age of whether older adults can be aided in their recollection efforts the events on the individual trials of the cued-recall and rec- when the to-be-evaluated information is different from the ognition tests, we did not find differences between the age source. This deficit may reflect a more general age-related groups, suggesting that the differential findings of aging impairment in reality monitoring that is particularly promi- were not caused by the time of the test. nent for past events (McDonough & Gallo, 2013). Embodied The present findings contribute to our understanding of retrieval cues may offer a way to better distinguish between the different mechanisms that underlie cued-recall and rec- authentic and altered event reports. ognition processes. Cued recall is a one-step retrieval pro- cess that can be augmented with content-based retrieval cues Declaration of Conflicting Interests to access other important components of the original experi- The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect ence. Recognition of altered entries requires another step in to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. the retrieval process that involves an evaluation of aspects of the original experience with competing information that has Funding replaced the original information. It may be that this subse- The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support quent step of updating that places high demands on cognitive for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The resources is particularly taxing on older adults, particularly study was supported by a Toptalent grant awarded to Katinka when the alterations are subtle. This age deficit may be part Dijkstra. of a more general deficit in binding, retrieval, and evaluation of earlier recorded materials in this age group (e.g., Chalfonte Note & Johnson, 1996; Kuhlmann & Touron, 2012), and hence, 1. To ensure that altered descriptions did not differ on plausibility cannot be remedied as easily as is the case with retrieval from authentic descriptions, 82 participants, who had not par- cues. ticipated in the main study, were asked to rate the descriptions A promising avenue for future research would be to exam- used in the recognition test on this dimension. We divided the ine in greater detail strategies that may aid the source moni- 736 descriptions over 16 conditions. Each condition consisted toring in recognition tasks. For example, an instruction to of 23 altered and 23 authentic descriptions and was taken by four to six participants. The participants rated the descriptions reactivate perceptual, spatial, and emotional aspects of the on a scale that ranged from 0 to 100. 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Accuracy and Cognitive Psychology, 12, 339-357. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099- qualities of real and suggested memories: Nonspecific age dif- 0720(199808)12:4<339::AID-ACP571>3.0.CO;2-D ferences. Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Science, 56, P103-P110. doi:10.1093/geronb/56.2.P103 Koutstaal, W., & Schacter, D. L. (1997). Gist-based false recogni- Author Biographies tion of pictures in older and younger adults. Journal of Memory Katinka Dijkstra is an associate professor whose research focuses and Language, 37, 555-583. doi:10.1006/jmla.1997.2529 on autobiographical memory in relation to cognitive aging. Koutstaal, W., Schacter, D. L., Galluccio, L., & Stofer, K. A. (1999). Reducing gist-based false recognition in older adults: Steve M. J. Janssen is an associate professor who conducts Encoding and retrieval manipulations. Psychology and Aging, research the self-enhancement function of autobiographical mem- 14, 220-237. doi:10.1037/0882-79184.108.40.206 ory. 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Multiple organisations of an associate professor at the Malaysia Campus of the University of events in memory. Memory, 5, 569-599. doi:10.1080/741941478 Nottingham.
SAGE Open – SAGE
Published: May 17, 2016
Keywords: aging; autobiographical memory; source monitoring; cued recall; recognition
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