Adult age differences in short-term memory for serial order: Data and a model

Elizabeth A. Maylor, Janet I. Vousden, Gordon D A Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


Age-related deficits in short-term memory have been widely reported, but reduced overall scores could reflect increased order errors, increased omissions, or increased intrusions. Different explanations for reduced short- term memory with aging lead to different predictions. In this study, young (n = 68; M age = 20 years) and older (n = 99; M age = 65 years) adults were presented with lists of letters and were asked to recall each list immediately in the correct order. Age differences in error patterns were similar for auditory and visual presentation. For example, older adults made more errors of every type, and a greater proportion of the older adults' errors were omissions. An additional condition, in which older adults were encouraged to guess, ruled out an age increase in response threshold as a full explanation for the results. The data were modeled by an oscillator- based computational model of memory for serial order. A good fit to the aging data was achieved by simultaneously altering two parameters that were interpreted as corresponding to frontal decline and response slowing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-594
Number of pages23
JournalPsychology and Aging
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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