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Rahhal, T. A., Hasher, L., & Colcombe, S. (2001). Instructional manipulations and age differences in memory: Now you see them, now you don't. Psychology and Aging, 16, 697-706.


The instructions for most explicit memory tests use language that emphasizes the memorial component of the task. This language may put older adults at a disadvantage relative to younger adults because older adults believe that their memories have deteriorated. Consequently, typical explicit memory tests may overestimate age-related decline in cognitive performance. In 2 experiments, age differences were obtained when the instructions emphasized the memory component of the task (memory emphasis) but not when the instructions did not emphasize memory (memory neutral). These findings suggest that aspects of the testing situation, such as experimental instructions, may exaggerate age differences in memory performance and need to be considered when designing studies investigating age differences in memory.

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