Memory and comprehension for health information among older adults: Distinguishing the effects of domain-general and domain-specific knowledge

Jessie Chin, Brennan Payne, Xuefei Gao, Thembi Conner-Garcia, James F. Graumlich, Michael D. Murray, Daniel G. Morrow, Elizabeth A.L. Stine-Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations

Abstract

While there is evidence that knowledge influences understanding of health information, less is known about the processing mechanisms underlying this effect and its impact on memory. We used the moving window paradigm to examine how older adults varying in domain-general crystallised ability (verbal ability) and health knowledge allocate attention to understand health and domain-general texts. Participants (n = 107, age: 60–88 years) read and recalled single sentences about hypertension and about non-health topics. Mixed-effects modelling of word-by-word reading times suggested that domain-general crystallised ability increased conceptual integration regardless of text domain, while health knowledge selectively increased resource allocation to conceptual integration at clause boundaries in health texts. These patterns of attentional allocation were related to subsequent recall performance. Although older adults with lower levels of crystallised ability were less likely to engage in integrative processing, when they did, this strategy had a compensatory effect in improving recall. These findings suggest that semantic integration during reading is an important comprehension process that supports the construction of the memory representation and is engendered by knowledge. Implications of the findings for theories of text processing and memory as well as for designing patient education materials are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-589
Number of pages13
JournalMemory
Volume23
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - May 19 2015

Keywords

  • Cognitive ageing
  • Health care
  • Knowledge
  • Reading comprehension
  • Resource allocation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)

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