A secondary methodology was used to investigate age differences in the amount of congnitive effort demanded by free recall. Aged and young adults performed a reaction time task while simultaneously retrieving a list of items in multitrial free-recall learning. RTs were slower in aged than young adults on each trial, suggesting that free recall is more demanding for older persons. In addition, the secondary task did not interfere with recall by older adults, suggesting that this technique is feasible in older persons. These results are consistent with the cognitive-effort hypotheses which postulate age differences in the demands of memory processing to be one factor underlying age-related deficits. An additional finding suggested that age differences in retrieval effort may also be related to differences in list organization.
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