Level of Constraint Influences the Generation Effect for Younger but not Older Adults
thesisposted on 2017-10-27, 00:00 authored by Matthew P McCurdy
The generation effect is the memory benefit for information that is self-generated compared to information that is passively perceived from another source. This effect has been reliable in both younger and older adults for item memory (i.e., memory for the “content” of information), but less consistent for context memory, such as source memory (i.e., memory for the source of where information was obtained). Our recent work in younger adults, however, has shown the generation effect can be enhanced when there are fewer experimental constraints placed on what participants can generate. In other words, materials generated under fewer constraints are better remembered than materials generated with more constraints (where participants are limited to generate a single, correct response). This study examined how the level of generation constraint impacts the memory benefits of self-generation in younger and older adults. In this study the item and context memory benefits of a lower-constraint (e.g., free response to cue) and higher-constraint (e.g., solving an anagram) generation task are compared to a read control task. Both younger and older adults showed improved item and context memory for generated materials over read controls, consistent with the standard generation effect. However, when comparing the two generation tasks, the level of generation constraint influenced the memory benefits for younger adults, but older adults showed equivalent memory for both generation tasks. These findings are in line with reality monitoring work that suggests older adults show an impoverished ability to differentiate between the two sources of internally generated information, but can still experience a memory benefit from self-generation.