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May, C. P., Hasher, L., & Stoltzfus, E. R. (1993). Optimal time of day and the magnitude of age differences in memory. Psychological Science, 4, 326-330.


Across two studies comparing younger and older adults, age differences in optimal performance periods were identified (Study 1), and then shown to be an important determinant of memory differences (Study 2). A norming study showed that while most younger adults were Evening or Neutral types, as determined by a standard questionnaire, the vast majority of older adults were Morning types. A second study compare the recognition performance of younger and older adults tested in the morning or in the late afternoon. Substantial age differences were found in the late afternoon, when younger but not older adults were at their optimal times. However, no age differences in memory performance were found in the morning, when older but not younger adults were at the peak period. Thus, synchrony between optimal performance periods and the time at which testing is conducted may well be a critical variable in determining group differences in intellectual performance, particularly between older and younger adults.

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