Proofreading text relies on stored knowledge, language processing, and attentional resources. Age differentially affects these constituent abilities: while older adults maintain word knowledge and most aspects of language comprehension, language production and attention capacity are impaired with age. Research with young adults demonstrates that proofreading is more attentionally-demanding for contextual errors which require integration across multiple words compared to noncontextual errors which occur within a single word. Proofreading is also more attentionally-demanding for text which is more difficult to comprehend compared to easier text. Older adults may therefore be impaired at aspects of proofreading which require production, contextual errors, or more difficult text. The current study tested these possibilities using a naturalistic proofreading task. Twenty-four young and 24 older adults proofread noncontextual (spelling) and contextual (grammar or meaning) errors in passages that were easier or more difficult to comprehend. Older adults were preserved at proofreading spelling errors, but were impaired relative to young adults when proofreading grammar or meaning errors, especially for difficult passages. Additionally, older adults were relatively spared at detecting errors compared to correcting spelling errors, in keeping with previous research. Age differences were not attributable to individual differences in vocabulary knowledge or self-reported spelling ability.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited