Compensatory effects of pointing and predictive cueing on age-related declines in visuospatial working memory
In this study, we investigated whether the visuospatial working memory performance of young and older adults would improve if they used a multimodal as compared with a unimodal encoding strategy, and whether or not visual cues would add to this effect. In Experiment 1, participants were presented with trials consisting of an array of squares and an array of circles. They were instructed to point at one type of figure (multimodal encoding strategy) and only to observe the other (unimodal encoding strategy). After each trial, an immediate location recognition test of one of the two arrays followed. In Experiment 2, the same task was used, but a cue was provided, either before or after the encoding phase, indicating which of the two arrays would be tested. Our results showed that a multimodal, as compared with a unimodal, encoding strategy improved visuospatial working memory performance in both young and older adults (Exp. 1), and that adding visual cues to the multimodal but not to the unimodal encoding strategy improved older adults' performance up to the level of young adults (Exp. 2). In both age groups, cueing after encoding led to higher performance in the multimodal than in the unimodal condition when the second array was tested. However, cueing before encoding led to higher performance in the multimodal than in the unimodal condition when the first array of the figure sequence was tested. These results suggest that pointing together with predictive cueing can have beneficial effects on visuospatial working memory, which is especially important for older adults.