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Is autobiographical memory ability related to social problem solving ability in older adults?

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Poor autobiographical memory abilities in young, depressed adults have been found to be related to poorer social problem solving ability, supposedly the result of working memory deficits. These relationships were examined in 80 healthy older and younger adults. It was hypothesized that age-related cognitive declines and decreased autobiographical specificity would predict poorer social problem solving ability. Furthermore, increasing memory support by priming autobiographical memory before a social problem solving task was predicted to improve problem solving performance to a greater degree for the older group. Subsequent to three cognitive tests, participants' specific memories were tested using a cued recall task, followed by a social problem solving task. Each age group was tested by two different experimenters. The order of the cued recall task was varied to determine whether primed autobiographical memories improved problem solving performance. Autobiographical specificity predicted social problem solving ability for both age groups. In addition, experimenter effects predicted autobiographical memory specificity. Age related cognitive declines were present but did not predict autobiographical memory specificity or social problem solving ability. Priming autobiographical memories before the social problem solving task did not improve performance for either age group.

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