Performance of younger and older adults on tests of word knowledge and word retrieval: Independence or interdependence of skills?

Gitit Kave, Ronit Yafé

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the associations between vocabulary knowledge and word retrieval in younger and older adults. Method: Three tests of word retrieval and 2 tests of word knowledge were administered to 140 Hebrew-speaking adults, half of whom were younger (M age = 24.20 years) and half of whom were older (M age = 74.83 years). Results: Younger adults outperformed older adults on tests of retrieval, whereas older adults outperformed younger adults on tests of vocabulary, and no association was found between the 2 skills across the entire sample. Once age and education were taken into account, both skills contributed to the prediction of each other and were similarly related within each group. Older adults performed equally well when required to produce and recognize word meanings, whereas younger adults were better at recognition than at production. Conclusions: Older age is associated with better knowledge and with retrieval difficulties, yet individual differences in vocabulary within each age group affect level of retrieval, and variability in search skills affects performance on vocabulary tests. Although the assessment of vocabulary is not free of retrieval demands, older adults as a group are more successful than are younger adults at producing word definitions, most likely because their knowledge is more complete.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-45
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Speech-Language Pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • Cognitive aging
  • Language testing
  • Naming
  • Verbal fluency
  • Vocabulary

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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