Evidence of preserved audience design with aging in interactive conversation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Speakers tailor referential expressions to the listener's knowledge, a phenomenon called audience design. Audience design requires access to partner-specific representations in memory, which could be compromised among older adults who experience memory declines. In fact, little is known about how the memory representation of shared knowledge with a conversational partner influences audience design in multiparty conversation. We examined how young and older adults tailor their utterances for partners holding different representations of the same item. Both younger and older adults successfully adjusted their referential expressions to the current partner's knowledge state in a live conversation. However, when memory was explicitly probed, older adults showed a source memory deficit in distinguishing which partner held which label. These results suggest that explicit memory may not be necessary for audience design, and that implicit memory processes, which are preserved with aging, may contribute to effective audience design. The findings highlight a pathway to preserved communicative competence with aging and the roles of multiple memory systems including both implicit and explicit systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-623
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Audience design
  • Language production
  • Memory
  • Multiparty conversation
  • Older adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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