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With a little help from familiar interlocutors: real-world language use in young and older adults


Luo, Minxia; Debelak, Rudolf; Schneider, Gerold; Martin, Mike; Demiray, Burcu (2021). With a little help from familiar interlocutors: real-world language use in young and older adults. Aging & Mental Health, 25(12):2310-2319.

Abstract

Objectives: Functional psychologists are concerned with the performance of cognitive activities in the real world in relation to cognitive changes in older age. Conversational contexts may mitigate the influence of cognitive aging on the cognitive activity of language production. This study examined effects of familiarity with interlocutors, as a context, on language production in the real world.
Method: We collected speech samples using iPhones, where an audio recording app (i.e. Electronically Activated Recorder [EAR]) was installed. Over 31,300 brief audio files (30-second long) were randomly collected across four days from 61 young and 48 healthy older adults in Switzerland. We transcribed the audio files that included participants’ speech and manually coded for familiar interlocutors (i.e. significant other, friends, family members) and strangers. We computed scores of vocabulary richness and grammatical complexity from the transcripts using computational linguistics techniques.
Results: Bayesian multilevel analyses showed that participants used richer vocabulary and more complex grammar when talking with familiar interlocutors than with strangers. Young adults used more diverse vocabulary than older adults and the age effects remained stable across contexts. Furthermore, older adults produced equally complex grammar as young adults did with the significant other, but simpler grammar than young adults with friends and family members.
Conclusion: Familiarity with interlocutors is a promising contextual factor for research on aging and language complexity in the real world. Results were discussed in the context of cognitive aging.

Abstract

Objectives: Functional psychologists are concerned with the performance of cognitive activities in the real world in relation to cognitive changes in older age. Conversational contexts may mitigate the influence of cognitive aging on the cognitive activity of language production. This study examined effects of familiarity with interlocutors, as a context, on language production in the real world.
Method: We collected speech samples using iPhones, where an audio recording app (i.e. Electronically Activated Recorder [EAR]) was installed. Over 31,300 brief audio files (30-second long) were randomly collected across four days from 61 young and 48 healthy older adults in Switzerland. We transcribed the audio files that included participants’ speech and manually coded for familiar interlocutors (i.e. significant other, friends, family members) and strangers. We computed scores of vocabulary richness and grammatical complexity from the transcripts using computational linguistics techniques.
Results: Bayesian multilevel analyses showed that participants used richer vocabulary and more complex grammar when talking with familiar interlocutors than with strangers. Young adults used more diverse vocabulary than older adults and the age effects remained stable across contexts. Furthermore, older adults produced equally complex grammar as young adults did with the significant other, but simpler grammar than young adults with friends and family members.
Conclusion: Familiarity with interlocutors is a promising contextual factor for research on aging and language complexity in the real world. Results were discussed in the context of cognitive aging.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Computational Linguistics
06 Faculty of Arts > Zurich Center for Linguistics
08 Research Priority Programs > Dynamics of Healthy Aging
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Psychiatric Mental Health
Health Sciences > Gerontology
Health Sciences > Geriatrics and Gerontology
Health Sciences > Psychiatry and Mental Health
Uncontrolled Keywords:Phychiatric Mental Health, Gerontology, Geriatrics and Gerontology, Psychiatry and Mental health
Language:English
Date:2 December 2021
Deposited On:12 Oct 2020 15:25
Last Modified:27 Jan 2022 02:45
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN:1360-7863
Additional Information:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Aging & mental health on 2020 Sep 26, available online: http://wwww.tandfonline.com/10.1080/13607863.2020.1822288..
OA Status:Green
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2020.1822288
PubMed ID:32981344
Project Information:
  • : FunderFP7
  • : Grant ID201917
  • : Project TitlePREDICT - Increasing the PaRticipation of the ElDerly in Clinical Trials

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