Aging and the Questionable Validity of Recognition-Based Exposure Measurement

Brian G. Southwell, Nathan D. Gilkerson, Jacob B. Depue, Ashleigh K. Shelton, Laura M. Friedenberg, Wilma Koutstaal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)603-619
Number of pages17
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2010 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • aging
  • exposure
  • measurement
  • media effects
  • memory


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