Susceptibility to retroactive interference: The effect of context as a function of age and cognition

Alla Rachel Shapiro, Einat Levy-Gigi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have shown that contextual cues improve memory performance and reduce interference in younger adults. However, it is not clear whether middle-aged and older adults can also benefit from contextual cues, or if this ability diminishes with ageing and cognitive decline. In order to test this question, we tested 69 middle-aged adults (aged 30–50 years) and 65 older adults (aged 65–85). Participants completed a retroactive interference paradigm with or without contextual cues. Cognitive functioning of older adults was assessed using the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, which is a sensitive and highly validated tool to detect cognitive decline in older age. The results showed that while middle-aged adults were able to benefit from context to improve recognition and reduce interference, older adults were not able to benefit from it. However, when we compared older adults with lower (<26) and higher (≥26) scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, we found that older adults with high cognitive functioning could benefit from context advantage at retrieval to improve recognition compared to those with lower cognitive functioning. Yet, similar to older adults with lower cognitive functioning, they could not benefit from context advantage at encoding and hence were still susceptible to interference.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)399-408
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 15 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Ageing
  • Context effect
  • Middle-aged adults
  • Older adults
  • Retroactive interference

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology


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