Medication instruction design: Younger and older adult schemas for taking medication

Daniel G. Morrow, Von O. Leirer, Jill M. Andrassy, Elizabeth Decker Tanke, Elizabeth A.L. Stine-Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined whether older and younger adults share a schema for taking medication and whether instructions are better recalled when they are organized to match this schema. Experiment 1 examined age differences in schema organization. Participants sorted medication items (e.g., purpose, dose, possible side effects) according to similarity and then ordered the items to create a preferred instruction set. Cluster analysis of the sort and order data showed that younger and older adults share a schema for taking medication. Secondary regression analyses found that verbal ability (i.e., vocabulary scores) predicted individual differences in schema organization. In Experiment 2 participants recalled instructions that were either compatible with this schema in terms of grouping and order of items or were presented in nonpreferred orders. Younger participants remembered more information than did older participants, but both age groups better remembered and preferred the more schema-compatible instructions. Secondary analyses showed that recall was also positively related to verbal ability. Along with our earlier research, this study suggests that older and younger adults possess a schema tot taking medication and that instructions that are compatible with this schema provide an environmental support that improves memory for medication information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)556-573
Number of pages18
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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