Two experiments have been completed using experimental techniques to study language production under controlled conditions. In Experiment 1, young and older adults were given two, three, or four words and asked to compose a sentence. Older adults' responses were similar to those of young adults when given two or three words. When given four words, the older adults made more errors and their responses were shorter and less elaborate than those of the young adults. In Experiment 2, simple intransitive verbs (smiled), transitive verbs (replaced), and complement-taking verbs (expected) were contrasted. The responses of older adults were similar to those of young adults given intransitive and transitive verbs. Given complement-taking verbs, young adults produced complex sentences, whereas the older adults produced simpler, less complex sentences; the older adults also made many errors. Both experiments found that older adults respond more slowly than young adults.
This is an electronic version of an article published in J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci (2003) 58 (5): P260-P268. doi: 10.1093/geronb/58.5.P260
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