Search and selection processes in implicit and explicit word-stem completion performance in young, middle-aged, and older adults

Lee Ryan, Arne Ostergaard, Lauren Norton, Jennifer Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


In the present investigation, we sought to (1) replicate previous reports of impaired word-stem completion (WSC) priming and cued recall performance in older adults, (2) gain a better understanding of the differential roles of search and selection processes in implicit and explicit WSC, and (3) determine the particular aspects of WSC performance that are influenced by age. Experiment 1 demonstrated that older adults primed and recalled fewer items on a WSC task than middle-aged adults did, who in turn primed and recalled fewer itmes than young adults did. A series of item analyses indicated that choice of a stem completion is influenced by two independent sources of information: the familiarity of the completion reflected by word frequency and the cue-specific match between the stem and the completion word based on the common pronunciation of the stem. Experiment 2 demonstrated that older adults utilized cue-specific matching to the same degree as young and middle-aged adults. However, the impact of target familiarity changed across the lifespan. Older adults produced and recalled high-frequency targets as well as young adults but produced and recalled fewer low-frequency targets than did young participants. The results are consistent with the view that older adults rely on familiarity to a greater degree than do young adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberBF03200470
Pages (from-to)678-690
Number of pages13
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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