09/06/2015 Psychology
DOI: 10.1037/ARC0000019 SemanticScholar ID: 67796654 MAG: 2143418714

Visuospatial Bootstrapping: Aging and the Facilitation of Verbal Memory by Spatial Displays

Publication Summary

When people are presented with a random list of digits to remember over an interval of a few seconds, the cognitive systems that are used are mainly verbal working memory systems, and these are different from those used when remembering visuospatial information. Our previous work has demonstrated that under certain circumstances, visuospatial memory processes can assist verbal memory processes. If a sequence of random numbers is presented for immediate recall in order, memory is better if the digits are displayed on a familiar telephone keypad array compared to either an unfamiliar random keypad or a single item. We previously argued that this was evidence for the existence of processes (described in many modern theories of memory) that could integrate information held in long-term memory (knowledge about the keypad) with short-term visuospatial memory for sequences of locations and short-term verbal memory for sequences of digits. In the current article, we report a study that demonstrates that this pattern remains present in a sample of older (55–76 years) adults compared to a younger sample (19–35 years). There are important benefits of this identification of the age-resilience of linkages between different types of information in short-term memory. One specific benefit is to theories of aging, but a second, broader, benefit may be that we can capitalize upon this finding to develop strategies and techniques for boosting the efficiency of working memory in older adults, an outcome that would have many benefits to an aging population.

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Richard Allen

Dr. Richard Allen

University of Leeds - Associate Professor

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