Adult age differences in word fluency for common and goal-directed categories Article

Hough, MS. (2007). Adult age differences in word fluency for common and goal-directed categories . 9(2), 154-161. 10.1080/14417040601050309

cited authors

  • Hough, MS



  • Word fluency is a means of investigating categorization skills and identifying strategies for search and retrieval from the lexicon. A gradual decline across the lifespan has been noted in the number of words produced by normal adults with object categories. However, it is unclear whether strategy usage also changes and if category type influences performance as one ages. The purpose of this investigation was to examine age differences in word fluency for three groups, each consisting of 20 normal adults: young (20-40), middle-aged (45-65), and elderly (70-90). Word fluency was examined for four common and four goal-directed categories. Quantitative analyses, total words and response accuracy, and qualitative analyses, involving response typicality and strategy usage, were undertaken. The elderly adults performed similarly to the young and middle-aged adults for the goal-directed categories. However, for the common categories, the older adults produced significantly fewer accurate responses and used significantly fewer strategies than the other groups. Thus, all groups displayed a similar profile for the goal-directed categories. Although goal-directed categories appear to have reduced memory representations, elderly adults retain access to this construction process. Decreased performance for the elderly group on common categories suggests reduction in ability to access these structures with age.

publication date

  • June 1, 2007

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 154

end page

  • 161


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