The effects of age and professional expertise on working memory performance

Elena Cavallini, Cesare Cornoldi, Tomaso Vecchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Differences in professional choice and experience may explain age differences in working memory performance of elderly people. The aim of this study was to examine whether expertise and prolonged practice in verbal and visuo-spatial abilities reduce age differences in laboratory working memory tasks. The effects of age and expertise on working memory performance were examined in three age groups in two different experiments. Firstly, the role of visuo-spatial expertise was analysed by examining age differences in architects. Secondly, people with extensive experience in verbal abilities (literary people) were tested in order to evaluate the effect of professional verbal experience. Architects and literary people outperformed a group of unselected age peers on tasks related to professional expertise only, but not on general working memory tests. There was no interaction between age and experience, suggesting that professional experience does not increase differences between experts and non experts and cannot modulate age-related effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-395
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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