Semantic and self-referential processing of positive and negative trait adjectives in older adults

Elizabeth L. Glisky, Maria J. Marquine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


The beneficial effects of self-referential processing on memory have been demonstrated in numerous experiments with younger adults but have rarely been studied in older individuals. In the present study we tested young people, younger-older adults, and older-older adults in a self-reference paradigm, and compared self-referential processing to general semantic processing. Findings indicated that older adults over the age of 75 and those with below average episodic memory function showed a decreased benefit from both semantic and self-referential processing relative to a structural baseline condition. However, these effects appeared to be confined to the shared semantic processes for the two conditions, leaving the added advantage for self-referential processing unaffected These results suggest that reference to the self engages qualitatively different processes compared to general semantic processing. These processes seem relatively impervious to age and to declining memory and executive function, suggesting that they might provide a particularly useful way for older adults to improve their memories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-157
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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