Age differences in veridical and false recall are not inevitable: The role of frontal lobe function

Karin M. Butler, The University of New Mexico
Mark A. McDaniel, Washington University in St. Louis
Courtney C. Dornburg, The University of New Mexico
Amanda L. Price, Elizabethtown College
Henry L. Roediger, Washington University in St. Louis


The relationship of neuropsychological measures of frontal lobe function to age differences in false recall was assessed using the Deese/Roediger-McDermott associative false memory paradigm (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995). As other studies have found, older adults were less likely to correctly recall studied items and more likely to falsely recall highly related but nonpresented items than were younger adults. When older adults were divided based on a composite measure of frontal lobe functioning, this age difference was found only for low frontal lobe functioning individuals. High frontal lobe functioning older adults and young adults had equivalent levels of false recall, as well as equivalent levels of veridical recall. These results suggest that age differences in memory may be due to declines in frontal lobe function. More important, our findings indicate that declines in veridical recall and increases in false recall are not an inevitable consequence of aging. Copyright 2004 Psychonomic Society, Inc.