Author(s): Gordon MS, Daneman M, Schneider BA
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Abstract Researchers have argued that older adults are more adversely affected by speeding speech than are younger adults. However, the age effects usually occur when (1) the speech materials are artificially speeded to rates well above those that occur in natural speech; (2) the speeding method introduces distortions that tax the older adult's auditory processes; and (3) the speech materials are simple sentences or very short passages. This study evaluated whether older adults are disadvantaged when listening to extended discourse (10- to 15-min lectures) speeded to a rate near to the limit of normally encountered fast speech (240 words/min) with a minimum of acoustic distortion. Perceptual difficulty was further manipulated by presenting stimuli in either quiet or with a 12-talker background babble. Younger and older adults had more difficulty recalling the details of the discourse and integrating their contexts when stimuli were presented at faster rates and in higher levels of background noise. Although each of these manipulations were found to cause large differences in performance, the age groups were generally found to perform analogously in most conditions. Potentially the availability of semantically rich materials, and the extended durations of the passages, allowed the older adults an opportunity to adjust to the faster speech rates and maintain performance levels similar to younger adults.
This article was published in Exp Aging Res
and referenced in International Journal of School and Cognitive Psychology