Do older adults use the method of loci? Results from the ACTIVE study

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Background/Study Context: The method of loci (MoL) is a complex visuospatial mnemonic strategy. Previous research suggests that older adults could potentially benefit from using the MoL, but that it is too attentionally demanding for them to use in practice. The authors evaluated the hypotheses that training can increase the use of MoL, and that MoL use is associated with better memory. Methods: The authors analyzed skip patterns on response forms for the Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT) in the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE; N = 1401) trial using 5 years of longitudinal follow-up. Results: At baseline, 2% of participants skipped spaces. Fewer than 2% of control participants skipped spaces at any visit across 5 years, but 25% of memory-trained participants, taught the MoL, did so. Participants who skipped spaces used more serial clustering, a hallmark of the MoL (p <.001). Trained participants who skipped spaces showed greater memory improvement after training than memory-trained participants who did not skip spaces (Cohens d =.84, p =.007), and did not differ in the subsequent rate of long-term memory decline through up to 5 years of follow-up. Conclusion: Despite being attentionally demanding, this study suggests that after training, the MoL is used by up to 25% of older adults, and that its use is associated with immediate memory improvement that was sustained through the course of follow-up. Findings are consistent with the notion that older adults balance complexity with novelty in strategy selection, and that changes in strategies used following memory training result in observable qualitative and quantitative differences in memory performance. ©

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-163
Number of pages24
JournalExperimental Aging Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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