Episodic future thinking: the role of working memory and inhibition on age-related differences
- 350 Downloads
The ability to remember past events and imagine future events (episodic future thinking—EFT) has been shown to decline with aging. However, only few studies have analyzed the cognitive mechanisms involved in EFT in both young and older adults. The present study examined the role of working memory and inhibition on age-related differences between young and older adults in EFT, in response to short sentences reflecting common events, some of which were repeated in both conditions (past and future). Thirty-seven young and 36 older adults completed an adapted version of the autobiographical interview, in which sentences were presented. Results showed that processing resources explained a significant part of the variance in the amount of details; in particular, inhibition explained the amount of external details produced in the future condition. In addition, using sentences, the older group did not differ from the young adults in terms of the proportion of internal details recalled in the past condition, whereas they produced a lower proportion of internal details in the future condition. The effect of using structured material was reinforced by repeating some sentences in the past. Further, only older adults rated the remembered episodes as more emotionally salient and relevant than the imagined ones. Age-related differences between young and older adults in EFT appear to depend on the type of material used, on basic mechanisms of cognition, and are characterized by both quantitative and qualitative differences.
KeywordsEpisodic future thinking Aging Working memory Inhibition
The authors wish to thank Irene Grasso for helping in data processing. This work was supported by a grant from the Italian Ministry of Research and Education (Progetto PRIN: 2010P8LRP7_003).
Conflict of interest
Human and Animal Rights
The study was conducted according to standards derived from the Declaration of Helsinki.
A written informed consent was obtained from every patient.
- 2.Craik FIM, Bialystok E (eds) (2006) Lifespan cognition: Mechanisms of change. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 297–314Google Scholar
- 10.Hasher L, Lustig C, Zacks RT (2007) Inhibitory mechanisms and the control of attention. In: Conway A, Jarrold C, Kane M, Miyake A, Towse J (eds) Variation in working memory. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 227–249Google Scholar
- 13.Harnishfeger KK, Bjorklund DF (1993) The ontogeny of inhibition mechanisms: A renewed approach to cognitive development. In: Howe ML, Pasnek R (eds) Emerging themes in cognitive development, vol 1. Springer-Verlag, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 16.Craik FIM, Salthouse TA (eds) (2000) Handbook of aging and cognition, 2nd edn. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, HillsdaleGoogle Scholar
- 18.Addis DR, Pan L, Vu MA, Laiser N, Schacter DL (2009) Constructive episodic simulation of the future and the past: distinct subsystems of a core brain network mediate imagining and remembering. Neuropsychologia 47:222–238Google Scholar
- 27.Wechsler D (2000) Echelle d’intelligence pour adulte, 3rd edn. Editions du, ParisGoogle Scholar
- 31.Zacks RT, Hasher L, Li KZH (2000) Human memory. In: Salthouse TA, Craik FIM (eds) Handbook of aging and cognition. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, MahwahGoogle Scholar
- 37.Wechsler D (1981) Wechsler adult intelligence scale-revised manual. The Psychological Corporation, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 38.De Beni R, Marigo C, Nava LA et al (2008) BEN-SSC. Ben-essere e invecchiamento, in De Beni, Borella, Carretti, Marigo e Nava, pp. 97–114Google Scholar
- 39.Orsini A, Laicardi C (2003) Wais-R e terza età. La natura dell’intelligenza nell’anziano: continuità e discontinuità. [WAIS-R and the third age. The nature of intelligence in elderly people: continuity and discontinuity]. Firenze, Giunti OSGoogle Scholar
- 40.De Beni R, Borella E, Carretti B, et al (2008) BAC. Portfolio per la valutazione del benessere e delle abilità cognitive nell’età adulta e avanzata [The assessment of well-being and cognitive abilities in adulthood and aging]. Firenze, Giunti OSGoogle Scholar
- 44.Cohen J (1988) Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences. Lawrence Erlbaum, HillsdaleGoogle Scholar
- 46.De Beni R, Palladino P (2004) Decline in working memory updating through ageing: intrusion error analyses. Memory 12:7589Google Scholar