Retrieval practice and testing improve memory in older adults

Document Type


Publication Date



Background: Older adults have difficulty remembering detailed information from what they have read, despite maintaining relatively well preserved gist-level processing. However, an over-reliance on gist can result in vague and errorful encoding. Retrieval-based strategies using testing via free recall have been shown to be more effective for long-term memory retention of text details than additional study, a phenomenon known as the "testing effect". Retrieval is thought to act as a secondary encoding, thus strengthening memory. Older adults would benefit then, from retrieval-based memory strategies that train efficient encoding of text information. These strategies to enhance memory in older adults can inform evidence-based treatment approaches for adults with acquired neurogenic communication disorders.Aims: The current study's first aim was to compare the effects of two training techniques in healthy older adults for remembering details of unfamiliar expository texts: (1) Read Attentively, Summarise and Review (RASR), a retrieval-based technique that incorporates recall in the form of summaries at the paragraph level, and (2) Read and Reread Attentively (RARA), a massed-reading technique. We hypothesised that RASR would result in greater retention of details after a 24-hour delay than RARA. Our second aim was to investigate the effects of immediate recall testing after studying compared with no testing after studying. We hypothesised that immediate testing would result in superior retention of details after a 24-hour delay than no testing.Methods & Procedures: A total of 44 healthy older adults met eligibility criteria for the study and were randomly assigned to receive one of the techniques (RASR = 23; RARA = 21). There were three experimental conditions: (1) control-plus-test (passage was read once then tested immediately for recall), (2) study-plus-test (passage was studied using one of the techniques, RASR or RARA, then tested immediately for recall) and (3) study-no-test (passage was studied using RASR or RARA but was not tested until 24 hours later).Outcomes & Results: Results revealed that the RASR group remembered more information immediately and after a 24-hour delay than the massed rereading group RARA. Additionally, the RASR technique combined with an immediate post-study test was the most beneficial method for remembering passage details after a delay.Conclusions: Findings indicate that healthy older adults can improve memory for unfamiliar text details using retrieval-based methods. Incorporating summarisation and retrieval-based strategies into therapies with clinical populations should be considered. © 2014 © 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Publication Name


Volume Number


First Page


Last Page


Issue Number




This document is currently not available here.