This study examined the effects of age and reading span on the ability to use contextual constraints during language comprehension. Older and younger participants listened to sentences over headphones and named pictures that appeared subsequently. Older adults named pictures faster when the preceding sentence context matched rather than mismatched the shape of the depicted object, but younger adults showed less of a match advantage. This effect of contextual match was especially pronounced in older high-span participants, consistent with models of cognitive aging in which surface level processing declines in older adulthood whereas processing at the situation model level remains intact. Results suggest that the practiced ability to immediately construe word meanings and activate the appropriate stored representations is preserved, if not strengthened throughout the lifespan.

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Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Department of Psychology

Madden, C.J, & Dijkstra, K. (2010). Contextual constraints in situation model construction: An investigation of age and reading span. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition, 17(1), 19–34. doi:10.1080/13825580902927604