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Rauers, Antje; Riediger, Michaela; Schmiedek, Florian; Lindenberger, Ulman:

With a little help from my spouse
Does spousal collaboration compensate for the effects of cognitive aging?

In: Gerontology, 57 (2011) 2 , 161-166

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Document type
3a. Beiträge in begutachteten Zeitschriften; Aufsatz (keine besondere Kategorie)

Alter Mensch, Empirische Forschung, Familienbeziehungen, Frau, Gedächtnis, Gedächtnishilfe, Kognition, Kognitive Kompetenz, Leistungstest, Mann, Partnerarbeit, Wirkung

Background: Collaborating with another person may help people compensate for aging-related losses in memory performance. However, collaborating in itself is effortful and draws upon individual cognitive resources. One factor that can facilitate collaboration, and decrease its resource requirements, is familiarity between interaction partners. Such facilitation should be particularly important when cognitive-mechanic resources are low. Objective: The current study was conducted to empirically test this theoretical notion. We hypothesized that cognitive aging should amplify the advantage of collaborating with a familiar partner over collaborating with an unfamiliar person. Methods: We developed an interpersonal cueing task based on the game Taboo. The task modeled an everyday-life situation in which one person cues another person to retrieve a piece of information from memory. Seventy-six younger adults (20 33 years) and 80 older adults (63 79 years) worked on this task once with their spouse and once with an unfamiliar cross-sex partner from the same age group. Collaborative performance was operationalized as the number of cue words needed until the partner guessed the target, as determined by independent trained coders. Performance in the Digit Symbol Substitution Test was used as an indicator of cognitive aging. Results: Multilevel-modeling analyses revealed that collaborating spouses outperformed collaborators who had not known each other before. This effect was comparable for both age groups but larger in persons with lower Digit Symbol scores. While participants with lower Digit Symbol scores generally performed worse in the collaborative task, they partly made up for this difference when working with the spouse. Conclusion: We conclude that spousal collaboration may offer a compensatory strategy to cope with individual aging-related losses. (DIPF/Autor)

Education and Human Development