New ACL Publication: Gerontology

“Behaviors and Strategies Supporting Everyday Memory in Older Adults.”

Background: Little is known about the means by which older adults achieve memory-demanding goals in everyday life or alternatively about why they fail to do so.
Objectives: We conducted qualitative interviews to evaluate what older people do to support everyday memory functioning. A principal focus was on understanding the ways in which individuals use internal memory strategies and external memory aids. Methods: We interviewed 25 community-dwelling older adults (mean age 70 years) in a semi-structured interview. The transcribed results were coded by extracting segments of the interviews and classifying the responses into emergent categories. All coded interview segments were reviewed by category. Memos were created and relevant themes identified.
Results: The older adults reported everyday memory failures (such as forgetting names), often without nominating explicit methods for avoiding these problems. They also reported using a number of external memory aids such as calendars and lists. Our interviews indicated this use was typically a part of complex routines and habits of living that often seemed vulnerable to errors. For instance, people would report filling medication organizers or completing to-do lists without mentioning plans for how to effectively use these aids later. Furthermore, they often reported reliance on spontaneous encoding and retrieval – for example, stating that they would routinely remember to perform important actions in the future.
Conclusions: Older adults’ reported everyday memory failures were linked to suboptimal use of external memory aids and to a reliance on incidental learning and remembering. There is potential value for interventions that improve procedures for managing everyday life goals that rely on memory.

Hertzog, C., Lustig, E., Pearman, A., & Waris, A. (2019). Behaviors and Strategies Supporting Everyday Memory in Older Adults. Gerontology, 1-11.

New ACL Publication: Open Psychology

“Strategy-adaptation memory training: predictors of older adults’ training gains.”

Over the past decades, memory training interventions have been developed in an attempt to stabilize or enhance memory functioning in aging. Only recently has attention been paid to individual differences in training gains and consequently to predictors of such gains. The aim of the present study was to identify which specific cognitive mechanisms/processes or components of the intervention were responsible for the desired change and which individuals were more responsive to memory strategic training. Eighty-one older adults (aged 55 to 82) were involved in a four-session strategy-adaptation training based on a learner-oriented approach that has previously been found to be effective in improving memory performance in practiced and untrained tasks. Results showed that baseline performance in memory tasks predicted the gains in the practiced task. Baseline performance in memory tasks and other cognitive variables, such as working memory, processing speed, and verbal knowledge predicted transfer effects. Interestingly, we found that the magnitude of training gain on the associative memory practiced task predicted the gains in the transfer tasks, suggesting those who best implemented the targeted strategies during training realized greater transfer to other tasks. Our study shows that older adults with larger cognitive resources will benefit more from interventions focused on the generalization via active processes.

Cavallini, E., Bottiroli, S., Dunlosky, J., Ambiel, E., Lux, A., & Hertzog, C. (2019). Strategy-adaptation memory training: predictors of older adults’ training gains. Open Psychology, 1(1), 255-272.

New ACL Publication: Intelligence

“Are there sex differences in confidence and metacognitive monitoring accuracy for everyday, academic, and psychometrically measured spatial ability?”

The current study evaluated sex differences in (1) self-perceptions of everyday and academic spatial ability, and (2) metacognitive monitoring accuracy for measures of spatial visualization and spatial orientation. Undergraduate students completed the Paper Folding Test, Spatial Relations Test, and the Revised Purdue Spatial Visualization Test while making confidence judgments (CJs) for each trial. They also made global estimates of performance and rated their ability to perform several everyday and academic spatial scenarios. Across multiple spatial measures, female students displayed lower confidence in their item-level monitoring and global assessments of performance than did male students, even when no actual differences in spatial performance occurred. Women were also less confident in their self-assessments of their visual-spatial ability for scientific domains than were men. However, the absolute and relative accuracy of CJs did not differ as a function of sex suggesting that women can monitor their spatial performance as well as men.

Ariel, R., Lembeck, N. A., Moffat, S., & Hertzog, C. (2018). Are there sex differences in confidence and metacognitive monitoring accuracy for everyday, academic, and psychometrically measured spatial ability? Intelligence, 70, 42-51.

New ACL Publication: Psychology & Aging

“Is subjective memory specific for memory performance or general across cognitive domains? Findings from the Seattle Longitudinal Study.”

A growing body of research has examined whether people’s judgments of their own memory functioning accurately reflect their memory performance at cross-section and over time. Relatively less is known about whether these judgments are specifically based on memory performance, or reflect general cognitive change. The aim of the present study was to examine longitudinal associations of subjective memory with performance in tests of episodic memory and a wide range of other cognitive tests, including the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—Revised (WAIS–R) Block Design, Comprehension, Digit Span, Digit Symbol, and Vocabulary subtests. We applied latent growth curve models to five occasions over up to 16 years of neuropsychological assessments from 956 participants of the Seattle Longitudinal Study (SLS; 57% women; age at baseline: M = 65.1, SD = 11.4, 38 – 96 years). Results revealed that lower self-reported Frequency of Forgetting was significantly associated with better performance in all cognitive domains at baseline. The baseline correlation of Frequency of Forgetting with memory performance was stronger than its correlations with performance in other cognitive tests. Furthermore, additional analyses with baseline data showed that a latent memory performance factor reliably predicted Frequency of Forgetting after controlling for a general cognitive factor. Over time, steeper increases in Frequency of Forgetting were associated with steeper declines in tests of memory performance and in the Block Design and Digit Symbol subtests. Taken together, these findings suggest that although self-reported Frequency of Forgetting reflects performance in a broad range of other cognitive domains, it also shows some specificity for memory performance.

Hülür, G., Willis, S. L., Hertzog, C., Schaie, K. W., & Gerstorf, D. (2018). Is subjective memory specific for memory performance or general across cognitive domains? Findings from the Seattle Longitudinal Study. Psychology and Aging, 33(3), 448-460.

New ACL Publication: Psychology & Aging

Subjective memory change (SMC) in adulthood involves the perception that one’s memory has declined from earlier levels of function. SMC has been conjectured to be more accurate than concurrent subjective memory because people use themselves as a standard of comparison. We used data from two longitudinal studies to contrast the accurate-monitoring-of-change hypothesis—actual memory change predicts SMC—against a constructed-judgment hypothesis that rated SMC is a function of rescaling concurrent memory beliefs without accessing actual memory change. It states that actual memory change has no predictive validity for SMC independent of concurrent memory beliefs. Data from both the Berlin Aging Study and the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) showed that older adults’ current memory complaints strongly predicted current SMC, and that there was little relationship of longitudinally measured memory change to SMC, controlling on memory complaints. In the HRS there were reliable latent-growth-curve slope correlations of over .20 for change in episodic memory with both slopes of change in SMC and in memory complaints, yet little relationship of SMC slopes to episodic memory slopes, controlling on memory-complaint slopes. The results falsify the accurate-monitoring-of-change hypothesis regarding the origins of SMC in older adults.


Hertzog, C., Hülür, G., Gerstorf, D., &amp Pearman, A. M. (2018). Is subjective memory change in old age based on accurate monitoring of age-related memory change? Evidence from two longitudinal studies. Psychology and Aging, 33(2), 273-287.

New ACL Publication: Frontiers in Psychology

“Precision, Reliability, and Effect Size of Slope Variance in Latent Growth Curve Models: Implications for Statistical Power Analysis.”

Andreas M. Brandmaier, Timo von Oertzen, Paolo Ghisletta, Ulman Lindenberger, and Christopher Hertzog

Latent Growth Curve Models (LGCM) have become a standard technique to model change over time. Prediction and explanation of inter-individual differences in change are major goals in lifespan research. The major determinants of statistical power to detect individual differences in change are the magnitude of true inter-individual differences in linear change (LGCM slope variance), design precision, alpha level, and sample size. Here, we show that design precision can be expressed as the inverse of effective error. Effective error is determined by instrument reliability and the temporal arrangement of measurement occasions. However, it also depends on another central LGCM component, the variance of the latent intercept and its covariance with the latent slope. We derive a new reliability index for LGCM slope variance—effective curve reliability (ECR)—by scaling slope variance against effective error. ECR is interpretable as a standardized effect size index. We demonstrate how effective error, ECR, and statistical power for a likelihood ratio test of zero slope variance formally relate to each other and how they function as indices of statistical power. We also provide a computational approach to derive ECR for arbitrary intercept-slope covariance. With practical use cases, we argue for the complementary utility of the proposed indices of a study’s sensitivity to detect slope variance when making a priori longitudinal design decisions or communicating study designs.

Brandmaier, A. M., von Oertzen, T., Ghisletta, P., Lindenberger, U., & Hertzog, C. (2018). Precision, reliability, and effect size of slope variance in latent growth curve models: Implications for statistical power analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 294.

New ACL Publication: Psychoneuroendocrinology

“Cortisol relates to regional limbic system structure in older but not younger adults.”

We investigated if the relationship between age and regional limbic system brain structure would be moderated by diurnal cortisol output and diurnal cortisol slope. Participants aged 23–83 years collected seven salivary cortisol samples each day for 10 consecutive days and underwent magnetic resonance imaging. Age, sex, cortisol, and an age x cortisol interaction were tested as predictors of hippocampal and amygdalar volume and caudal and rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) thickness. We found significant interactions between age and cortisol on left and right amygdalar volumes and right caudal ACC thickness. Older adults with higher cortisol output had smaller left and right amygdalar volumes than older adults with lower cortisol output and younger adults with higher cortisol output. Older and younger adults with lower cortisol output had similar amygdalar volumes. Older adults with a steeper decline in diurnal cortisol had a thicker right caudal ACC than younger adults with a similarly shaped cortisol slope. Hippocampal volume was not related to either cortisol slope or output, nor was pallidum volume which was assessed as an extra-limbic control region. Results suggest that subtle differences in cortisol output are related to differences in limbic system structure in older but not younger adults.

Ennis, G. E., Quintin, E. M., Saelzler, U., Kennedy, K. M., Hertzog, C., & Moffat, S. D. (2019). Cortisol relates to regional limbic system structure in older but not younger adults. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 101, 111-120.

Recruiting research assistants for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019

The Hertzog Adult Cognition Laboratory is recruiting talented undergraduate research assistants (Psych 2699 & 4699) who want to gain hands-on research experience for Fall 2018 and Spring 2019.

The Adult Cognition Lab will be running experiments investigating learning, reasoning and memory. Studies include:
1. A behavioral intervention focused on everyday memory and cognition with retirement-age older adults.
2. How aging affects memory and whether it also affects older adults’ learning strategies and monitoring of memory performance.
3. Assessing older and younger adults’ reported experiences with everyday memory failures, their common memory complaints, and the strategies they use to compensate for age-related changes in memory through qualitative analyses.

Interested students should meet the following criteria: Have an interest in psychology, be independently motivated, be personable and enjoy interacting with people – including older adults, be friendly, be timely, and pay attention to detail. Special preference will be given to psychology majors. No previous research experience is necessary. Contact Emily Lustig ( with inquiries and questions.

New ACL Publication: Experimental Aging Research

Background/Study Context: This study evaluated adult age differences in the original three-item Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT; Frederick, 2005, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19, 25–42) and an expanded seven-item version of that test (Toplak et al., 2013, Thinking and Reasoning, 20, 147–168). The CRT is a numerical problem-solving test thought to capture a disposition towards either rapid, intuition-based problem solving (Type I reasoning) or a more thoughtful, analytical problem-solving approach (Type II reasoning). Test items are designed to induce heuristically guided errors that can be avoided if using an appropriate numerical representation of the test problems.

Methods: We evaluated differences between young adults and old adults in CRT performance and correlates of CRT performance. Older adults (ages 60 to 80) were paid volunteers who participated in experiments assessing age differences in self-regulated learning. Young adults (ages 17 to 35) were students participating for pay as part of a project assessing measures of critical thinking skills or as a young comparison group in the self-regulated learning study.

Results: There were age differences in the number of CRT correct responses in two independent samples. Results with the original three-item CRT found older adults to have a greater relative proportion of errors based on providing the intuitive lure. However, younger adults actually had a greater proportion of intuitive errors on the long version of the CRT, relative to older adults. Item analysis indicated a much lower internal consistency of CRT items for older adults.

Conclusion: These outcomes do not offer full support for the argument that older adults are higher in the use of a “Type I” cognitive style. The evidence was also consistent with an alternative hypothesis that age differences were due to lower levels of numeracy in the older samples. Alternative process-oriented evaluations of how older adults solve CRT items will probably be needed to determine conditions under which older adults manifest an increase in the Type I dispositional tendency to opt for superficial, heuristically guided problem representations in numerical problem-solving tasks.


Hertzog, C., Smith, R. M., & Ariel, R. (2017). Does the Cognitive Reflection Test actually capture heuristic versus analytic reasoning styles in older adults?. Experimental aging research, 1-17.

Recruiting research assistants for Spring and Summer 2018

Are you a Georgia Tech undergraduate who is looking to become a research technician for credit, experience, or both? Do you have a passion for working with older adults in the community? Look no further!

The Adult Cognition Lab (ACL) at the Georgia Institute of Technology is recruiting undergraduate research technicians for the fall semester. Students will be able to participate in high-level psychological research in exchange for 1 – 3 credit hours (Research Assistantship) with time commitments dependent on the number of credit hours signed up for.

As an undergraduate research technician with the ACL, you will have the opportunity to gain experience with (but not limited to):

  • Research in aging, memory, metamemory, and intelligence
  • Quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis
  • Statistical analysis (SAS, R, SPSS, etc.)
  • Interview techniques
  • Coordinating participants and sessions

Our current projects are exploring:

  • How university students’ casual reasoning is impacted based on knowledge and thinking styles.
  • How aging affects memory and whether it also affects older adults’ learning strategies and monitoring of memory performance.
  • Assessing older adults’ reported experiences with everyday memory failures, their common memory complaints, and the strategies they use to compensate for age-related changes in memory by conducting interviews.

If you are interested in working with us, please send an e-mail to Emily Lustig at