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Poster B123

Examining how retrieval goals shape memory recall in younger and older adults

Poster Session B - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Can Fenerci1 (, Samantha O’Toole1, Kailin Summers1, Signy Sheldon1; 1McGill University, Department of Psychology

Episodic memory changes are a hallmark of cognitive aging. A recent neurocognitive framework describes these age-related changes as qualitative distinctions in how younger and older adults recollect events—when younger adults prioritize accurate recall, older adults emphasize recalling events more broadly, for socially-oriented reasons. Based on this proposal, we investigated (1) whether age-related deficits in episodic recollection result from age-specific goals of retrieval and (2) if aging affects the ability to adapt memory recall based on retrieval goals. To these ends, we conducted a between-group experiment involving younger and older participants (N = 120). All participants encoded an audiovisual movie and later recalled it with one of two retrieval goals—one emphasizing accuracy and another emphasizing a social goal. Comparing the number of recalled details from the movie between the goal (accuracy, social) and age groups (younger, older) revealed that both younger and older adults recalled fewer details under the social goal. Additional analysis showed that older adults incorporated more 'movie asides' compared to younger adults in their recall, regardless of goal. Next, we employed a natural language processing model to gauge content similarity across recollections based on goal and age group. We found that, compared to younger adults, older adults exhibited higher similarity in their recollections across goals, indicating an age-related deficit in adapting memory content to align with their goals. These results suggest that goal related modulation of memory content is impaired in older age, which manifests in the absence of age differences in memory accuracy.

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Development & aging


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