Date of Award

Spring 1997

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Elizabeth Stine-Morrow


The paradoxical nature of adult development is that it is marked by a decline in processing capacity but an increase in knowledge. A specialized formulation of increased knowledge that can occur throughout the lifespan is expertise. Because discourse processing is both a method of acquiring domain expertise and is facilitated by domain expertise, the nature of this interrelationship is central to successful aging. However, the processes through which expertise facilitates discourse processing are virtually unexplored within the cognitive aging literature. Four experiments investigating this issue are presented. The first experiment investigated age differences in on-line reading strategies of readers with high and low recall using passages in which expertise was "induced" by giving "high-knowledge" subjects titles to passages that were otherwise incoherent. In Experiment 2, age differences in parsing mechanisms underlying discourse processing of high- and low-knowledge listeners were examined using speech segmentation methodology. Experiment 3 was conducted to examine age differences in the effects of task demands on the reading strategies of high- and low-knowledge adults. Lastly, in Experiment 4, age differences in discourse processing strategies were investigated in the real-world domain of cooking.