Age differences in the allocation of study time

  • It is well-established that older adults commonly need to practice more than younger adults to achieve the same level of performance.
  • It may be that such age deficits in remembering are at least partly due to poorer monitoring of their learning.

It has been well-established that, compared to younger adults, older adults require more practice to achieve the same level of performance1. Sometimes, indeed, they may need twice as much2.

In the present study, two groups of adult subjects were given paired items to learn during multiple study-test trials. During each trial items were presented at the subject's pace. Afterwards the subjects were asked to judge how likely they were to be able to recall each item in a test.

It was found that people were very good at accurately judging the likelihood of their correct recall. Correlations between judgments and the amount of time the subjects studied the items suggested that people were monitoring their learning and using this to allocate study time.

However, older adults (with a mean age of 67) used monitoring to a lesser degree than the younger adults (with a mean age of 22), and the results suggested that part of the reason for the deficit in recall commonly found with older adults is due to this factor.


1. For a review, see Kausler, D.H. 1994. Learning and memory in normal aging. New York: Academic Press.

2. Delbecq-Derousné, J. & Beauvois, M. 1989. Memory processes and aging: A defect of automatic rather than controlled processes? Archives of Gerontology & Geriatrics, 1 (Suppl), 121-150.

Salthouse, T.A. & Dunlosky, J. 1995. Analyses of adult age differences in associative learning. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 203, 351-360

Dunlosky, J. & Connor, L.T. (1997). Age differences in the allocation of study time account for age differences in memory performance. Memory and Cognition, 25, 691-700.