• Article

Aging and the questionable validity of recognition-based exposure measurement

Growing evidence suggests that basic exposure measures, such as recognition-based items, might not operate identically among older and younger adults. We present two studies relevant to this debate. Study 1 provides experimental confirmation of the recognition decline hypothesis, finding an interaction between age and exposure in predicting recognition memory for an advertisement related to global warming. Study 2 assesses television news project evaluation data to explore whether verbatim detail recognition difficulty explains Study 1 results. The two studies provide complementary evidence, not only illustrating recognition decline among the elderly but also providing careful control of exposure in Study 1 and the use of multiple messages, realistic viewing scenarios, and free recall data in Study 2. Taken together, the studies offer a cautionary tale for campaign evaluators. On a broader theoretical level, the results suggest a fruitful path for communication research focused on the nuanced and potentially critical moderating role of age.


Southwell, B., Gilkerson, ND., Depue, JB., Shelton, AK., Friedenberg, LM., & Koutstaal, W. (2010). Aging and the questionable validity of recognition-based exposure measurement. Communication Research, 37(5), 603-619. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093650209356442

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