Age-related declines in context maintenance and semantic short-term memory

Henk J. Haarmann*, Gemma E. Ashling, Eddy J. Davelaar, Marius Usher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study reports age-related declines in context maintenance (Braver et al., 2001) and semantic short-term memory (STM) and evidence for a relation between the two. A group of younger and older adults completed a context maintenance task (AX-CPT), a semantically oriented STM task (conceptual span), a phonologically oriented STM task (digit span), and a meaning integration task (semantic anomaly judgement). In the AX-CPT task, a target response is required to the probe letter "X" but only when it is preceded by the letter "A" (the context). Either three (short interference) or six distractor letters (long interference) were presented between the cue and the probe. Results indicated an age-related deficit in context maintenance. Age-related declines were also observed for conceptual span and semantic anomaly judgement but not for digit span. Context maintenance was correlated with conceptual span and semantic anomaly judgement but not with digit span. These correlations were largely mediated by age differences, which also explained variance that was unique to (and not shared among) context maintenance, conceptual span, and semantic anomaly judgement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-53
Number of pages20
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A: Human Experimental Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Economic and Social Research CouncilT0262701312


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