On the Locus and Process of Magnification of Age Differences During Mnemonic Training

Reinhold Kliegl, Jacqui Smith, Paul B. Baltes

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The focus of this study was on developmental reserve capacity in old age as revealed by testing-the- limits. We examined (a) the time course of training-related magnification of age differences in serial word recall and (b) predictability of training gains by pretest individual differences in cogni- tive abilities. In 20 sessions, young (n = 18) and old (n = 19) adults were taught to recall lists of 30 words using the Method of Loci. Age differences were magnified early in practice at long presenta- tion times (20 s and 15 s per word) and later at 5 s per word. Regression of posttraining scores on various pretraining abilities revealed significant effects of digit symbol substitution. Also, consis- tent with the assumption of age-related decline in developmental reserve capacity, the unique variance in serial word recall associated with age group became more salient as the training unfolded.

Developmental Psychology