Aging, memory load, and resource allocation during reading

Andrew P. Smiler, Danielle D. Gagne, Elizabeth A.L. Stine-Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To test the notion that aging brings an inability to self-initiate processing, the authors investigated the effects of memory load on online sentence understanding. Younger and older adults read a series of short passages with or without a simultaneous updating task, which would be expected to deplete resources by consuming memory capacity. Regression analyses of word-by-word reading times onto text variables within each condition were used to decompose reading times into resources allocated to the array of word-level and textbase-level processes needed for comprehension. Among neither the young nor the old were word-level processes disrupted by a simultaneous memory load. However, older readers showed relatively greater levels of resource allocation to conceptual integration than the younger adults when under load, regardless of working-memory span or task priority. These results suggest that the ability to self-initiate the allocation of processing resources during reading is preserved among older readers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-209
Number of pages7
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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