The long term goals of the research are to identify 1) factors and conditions that produce optimal reading comprehension and retrieval for older learners, and 2) mechanisms responsible for age-related deficit in processing texts; specifically, can working memory deficits account for most of the accountable variance in the decline between reading performance and aging? The literature on discourse processing and aging show that age-related differences are minimized or eliminated when the text presentation pace is slowed, and the readers is given maximum support of signals (text structure) and strategy. Given these findings, two logical research questions follow. One, how do pace, signals, and strategies interact to minimize age difference? And, more importantly, why? The proposal research will combine the expertise from two laboratories. First, Meyer's laboratory will examine the necessary combination of conditions that will produce minimum and large age differences in text comprehension followed by experiments to understand interactions among age pace, signals, and strategies. This unique set of experiments is designed to extend our knowledge on the how question. At the same time, Poon's laboratory will examine the why questions by studying the predicative accuracy of individual differences in working memory capacitates and processing rates on text comprehension. Information gathered on measures of working memory from Poon's laboratory will be used in Meyer's laboratory to further examine patterns of relationships between aging and memory as stress on the processing of texts is varied. Finally, a four- month text comprehension training program will be conducted in both laboratories based on our understanding of individual differences. Through this systematic series of studies the proposed research will further extant understanding of an important specific cognitive function, reading comprehension. The proposed series of studies of studies examines how much of the accountable variance attributed to age in reading performance can be attributed to working memory deficits as stress on processing is systematically varied by manipulating important strategy, text, and tasks variables. These findings will add to a better understanding of age-associated changes of cognitive performance found in cross-sectional studies.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Human Development and Aging Subcommittee 3 (HUD)
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Pennsylvania State University
Schools of Education
University Park
United States
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Meyer, Bonnie J F; Talbot, Andrew P; Ranalli, Carlee (2007) Why older adults make more immediate treatment decisions about cancer than younger adults. Psychol Aging 22:505-24