Older Adults Show Intraindividual Variation in the Use of Predictive Processing

Suzanne R. Jongman, Allyson Copeland, Yaqi Xu, Brennan R. Payne, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The use of prediction can aid language comprehension through preactivation of relevant word features. However, predictions can be wrong, and it has been proposed that resolving the mismatch between the predicted and presented item requires cognitive resources. Older adults tend not to predict and instead rely more on passive comprehension. Here, we tested, using an intraindividual approach, whether older adults consistently use this less demanding processing strategy while reading or whether they attempt to predict on some trials. Methods: We used a cross-task conflict paradigm. Younger and older participants self-paced to read sentences that ended with either an expected or unexpected word. Each sentence was then followed by a flanker stimulus that could be congruent or incongruent. We examined responses within and across the two tasks. Results: Unexpected words were in general read as quickly as expected words, indicating that typical processing of these words was similar. However, for both younger and older adults, there was a greater proportion of very slow trials for unexpected words, revealing different processing on a subset of trials. Critically, in older adults, these slowly read unexpected words engaged control, as seen in speeded responses to incongruent flanker stimuli. Conclusion: Using a cross-task conflict paradigm, we showed that older adults are able to predict and engage cognitive resources to cope with prediction violations, but do not opt to use these processes consistently.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-456
Number of pages24
JournalExperimental Aging Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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