Background: There is evidence that individuals perform better on some memory tasks when tested at their preferred time of day, a phenomenon named the synchrony effect. There is also evidence of a predictable change from evening to morning preference during the adult life span. Together, these findings suggest that age effects on memory measures may be overestimated when time of testing is ignored. The aim of this study was to investigate whether synchrony effects could partially explain the well-documented age-related decline in performance on the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT).
Methods: Groups of 42 younger adults (aged 18–33 years) and 42 older adults (aged 55–71 years) were administered the RAVLT at either their optimal (n = 21) or non-optimal (n = 21) time of day.
Results: Although both age groups benefited moderately from being tested at their optimal time, this effect was greater for older participants and extended to all facets of RAVLT performance except proactive interference. However, younger adults outperformed older adults on three of the five RAVLTs.
Conclusions: These findings add to existing evidence of synchrony effects, particularly in memory functioning of older adults, and highlight the need for clinicians to consider optimal time of testing when administering and interpreting the RAVLT.