Prevention is better than cure: Effects of errors on memory performance during spatial learning in healthy aging
Number of pages
SourceAging Clinical and Experimental Research, 33, 4, (2021), pp. 997-1003
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC NRP
Aging Clinical and Experimental Research
SubjectNeuropsychology and rehabilitation psychology; Neuro- en revalidatiepsychologie
Background: Healthy aging is accompanied by a decline in learning ability and memory capacity. One widely-studied method to improve learning outcome is by reducing the occurrence of errors during learning (errorless learning; EL). However, there is also evidence that committing errors during learning (trial-and-error learning; TEL) may benefit memory performance. We argue that these inconsistent findings could be driven by a lack of control over the error frequency in traditional EL and TEL paradigms. Aim: This study employed a spatial learning task to study EL and TEL and to determine the impact of error frequency on memory recall in healthy older adults (OA; N = 68) and young adults (YA; N = 60). Method: Four groups of participants (YA-EL, YA-TEL, OA-EL, OA-TEL) were instructed to first place and memorize the locations of everyday objects in a chest of drawers presented on a computer screen, and in whom memory recall performance was later tested. In the TEL condition, the amount of errors made before the correct drawer was 'found' was predetermined, varying from 0 to 5. During the EL condition, every first attempt was correct (i.e., no errors were made). Results: We found better overall performance in YA compared to OA and a beneficial effect of EL in both age groups. However, the amount of errors committed during learning did not influence accuracy of memory recall. Conclusion: Our results indicate that elimination of errors during learning can benefit memory performance in both YA and OA compared to TEL.
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