Understanding How Prior Knowledge Influences Memory in Older Adults.
Older adults have a harder time than younger adults remembering specific events and experiences (episodic memory), whereas the ability to use one's general knowledge either improves or remains stable over the life span. Our focus is on the sometimes overlooked but critical possibility that this intact general knowledge can facilitate older adults' episodic memory performance. After reviewing literature that shows how prior knowledge can support remembering in aging as well as lead it astray, we consider open questions including whether prior knowledge is used only to fill in the gaps after a memory failure and when older adults might need to be instructed to apply their prior knowledge. Overall, we situate our claims within theories of cognitive aging, arguing that prior knowledge is a key factor in understanding older adults' memory performance, with the potential to serve as a compensatory mechanism.
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