The role of cognition on age-related changes in language, memory, and mental models

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Many studies have shown that as people age, they tend to show deficits in cognitive abilities (e.g., Salthouse, 2012). However, the goal of cognitive aging research is to not only examine these deficits, but also to examine what abilities are maintained (e.g., Stine-Morrow, Miller, Gagne, & Hertzog, 2008). For example, cognitive studies of language processing have shown that older adults, relative to younger adults, place a greater emphasis on memory for the major ideas that were expressed, even though they tend to have difficulty remembering the exact wording that was used (e.g., Radvansky & Dijkstra, 2007). The goal of this chapter is to provide an overview of how cognitive aging affects language and memory. Specifically, this chapter focuses on how the normal aging process affects both language processing and comprehension with an emphasis on the use of mental models, specifically situation (Zwaan & Radvansky, 1998) or event (Radvansky & Zacks, 2011) models. Because memory is such an important component of language use, this chapter also examines how deficits in memory that are due to normal aging, such as a decline in working memory capacity, can influence how older adults process and comprehend language (e.g., Copeland & Radvansky, 2007).


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