Increased reliance on world knowledge during language comprehension in healthy aging: evidence from verb-argument prediction
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionAging, Neuropsychology and Cognition. 2021, . 10.1080/13825585.2021.1962791
Cognitive aging negatively impacts language comprehension performance. . However, there is evidence that older adults skillfully use linguistic context and their crystallized world knowledge to offset age-related changes that negatively impact comprehension. Two visual-world paradigm experiments examined how aging changes verb-argument prediction, a comprehension process that relies on world knowledge but has rarely been examined in the cognitive-aging literature. Older adults did not differ from younger adults in their activation of an upcoming likely verb argument, particularly when cued by a semantically-rich agent+verb combination (Experiment 1). However, older adults showed elevated activation of previously-mentioned agents (Experiment 1) and of unlikely but verb-congruent referents (Experiment 2). This is novel evidence that older adults exploit semantic context and world knowledge during comprehension to successfully activate upcoming referents. However, older adults also show elevated activation of irrelevant information, consistent with previous findings demonstrating that older adults may experience greater proactive interference and competition from task-irrelevant information.