Diminished but not forgotten: Effects of aging on magnitude of spacing effect benefits

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The Gerontological Society of America/Oxford University Press


Objectives. Age-related changes in memory performance are common in paired associate episodic memory tasks, although the deficit can be ameliorated with distributed practice. Benefits of learning episode spacing in older adults have been shown in single-session studies with spaced presentations of items followed by a test. This study examined the magnitude of the spacing effect benefit in older adults relative to younger adults when given a multiday spacing effect paradigm. Method. We examined the impact of spacing gap (~15min vs. 24hr) in younger (N = 51, Mage = 19 years, SD = 0.6) and older (N = 54, Mage = 65 years, SD = 8.8) adults with a 10-day retention interval. Results. Spacing of learning episodes benefited both younger and older adults. There was an age-related difference in the magnitude of this benefit that has not been observed in earlier studies. Discussion. These results suggest that spacing benefited the long-term memory of older adults, however the effect was diminished and qualitatively different from that of younger adults.