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ERIC Number: EJ1060141
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-May
Pages: 10
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Mistakes as Stepping Stones: Effects of Errors on Episodic Memory among Younger and Older Adults
Cyr, Andrée-Ann; Anderson, Nicole D.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v41 n3 p841-850 May 2015
The memorial costs and benefits of trial-and-error learning have clear pedagogical implications for students, and increasing evidence shows that generating errors during episodic learning can improve memory among younger adults. Conversely, the aging literature has found that errors impair memory among healthy older adults and has advocated for the use of errorless learning to rehabilitate memory. However, there is evidence that errors are not always beneficial for younger adults, nor always harmful for older adults. We propose that differences in the learning paradigms used in the younger and older adult literatures may account for these conflicting recommendations, namely that they typically engender conceptual and nonconceptual processing, respectively. In this study, we had younger and older adults study words under errorless and trial-and-error learning instructions and based either on conceptual ("a flower - tulip") or lexical ("ho___- house") cues. We found that relative to errorless learning, trial-and-error learning increased target memory in the conceptual condition but decreased it in the lexical condition. Critically, both age groups showed this pattern, implying that aging does not influence how we learn from mistakes. We suggest that conceptual guesses act as "stepping stones" toward the target whereas lexical guesses simply create retrieval noise. This suggestion was supported by the fact that participants of both ages remembered their prior guesses better in the conceptual than lexical condition and that memory for guesses mediated differences in target performance. These findings are discussed within the framework of current theories on the effects of error generation on episodic memory.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A