Memory for route and survey descriptions across the adult lifespan: The role of verbal and visuospatial working memory resources

Ioanna Markostamou, Kenny Coventry

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Spatial representations of an environment involve different perspectives and can derive from different inputs, including spatial descriptions. While it is well-established that memory of visually-encoded spatial representations declines with increasing age, less is known about age-related changes in recalling verbally-encoded spatial information. We examined the lifespan trajectories of memory recall for route (person-centred) and survey (object-centred) spatial descriptions and compared it to non-spatial verbal memory in a sample (N = 168) of young, middle-aged, young-old, and old-old adults. We also examined the mediating role of both verbal and visuospatial short-term and working memory capacity in accounting for age-dependent changes in non-spatial verbal and spatial-verbal (route and survey) memory recall. Age-related differences emerged across all memory recall tasks, however, the onset and rate of changes was earlier and steeper for spatial descriptions compared to non-spatial verbal recall. Interestingly, the age effect on route recall was partially mediated by age-related changes in both verbal and visuospatial working memory capacity, but survey recall was associated only with visuospatial working memory, while non-spatial verbal recall was associated only with verbal working memory resources. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings for spatial cognition and ageing models are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101712
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
Early online date19 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

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