Recent studies have shown that young adults better remember factual information they are curious about. It is not entirely clear, however, whether this effect is retained during aging. Here, the authors investigated curiosity-driven memory benefits in young and elderly individuals.
In two experiments, young (age range 18–26) and older (age range 65–89) adults read trivia questions and rated their curiosity to find out the answer. They also attended to task-irrelevant faces presented between the trivia question and the answer. The authors then administered a surprise memory test to assess recall accuracy for trivia answers and recognition memory performance for the incidentally learned faces.
In both young and elderly adults, recall performance was higher for answers to questions that elicited high levels of curiosity. In Experiment 1, the authors also found that faces presented in temporal proximity to curiosity-eliciting trivia questions were better recognized, indicating that the beneficial effects of curiosity extended to the encoding of task-irrelevant material.
These findings show that elderly individuals benefit from the memory-enhancing effects of curiosity. This may lead to the implementation of learning strategies that target and stimulate curiosity in aging.