The objective of this research is to understand deficits shown by elderly adults in visual long-term memory. Although these age- related deficits are generally small, they have important implications regarding eyewitness testimony by adults of different ages, and they reveal age differences in nonverbal memory mechanisms, which have been studied in other species and have been linked to specific brain structures. The focus of this project is memory for faces, an unusually pure case of nonverbal memory that is both well practiced and ecologically significant across all age groups and generational cohorts, and that is known to show deficits among elderly adults. A first specific aim of the project is to examine the age deficits in memory for faces from an information-processing perspective, comparing young and elderly subjects in the encoding, retention, and retrieval of faces, and clarifying some ambiguities in the prior research literature. A second specific aim is to examine the practical and theoretical implications of age-related increases in false recognitions of new faces. A third specific aim is to explore some hypotheses derived from research on amnesia for age-related deficits in face memory. These hypotheses include pronounced deficits on the part of older individuals in memory for the presentation context of faces, and age-invariance in some types of memory for emotional reactions to faces.
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