This experiment investigated age differences in the speed of verbal recall under experimentally controlled processing conditions. Twelve normal aged and 12 young adults learned a set of items by a procedure that required them to search a list to identify instances of common conceptual categories. This search procedure was used to control for age differences in initial processing. Memory for the target items was tested by free recall and cued recall in which each item was cued by its category label. There were no age differences in either rate of free recall of speed of cued recall under these conditions. This result appears to be inconsistent with the Birren hypothesis, which predicts age differences in the speed of verbal recall. This experiment illustrates the importance of experimentally controlled processing conditions for evaluations of age-related changes in cognitive speed.
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