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Age related associative memory performance under divided attention
Theresa E. Matson
May 8, 2012
Department or Program
This study compared the effects of aging and divided attention on recognition of new associations. We asked whether young adults tested under divided attention conditions at retrieval produced results that mimic normal patterns of memory performance in older adults. We tested participants under full attention and divided attention in two study-test blocks. At study, participants were presented with 66 word pairs with instructions to remember the specific pairings. At test, participants judged whether word pairs were either identical to the previously studied word pairs, rearranged or new. During the divided attention test block, the participants judged numbers while simultaneously deciding whether they had previously encountered the word pairs. During the full attention test block, word pairs and numbers were presented but participants were instructed to ignore the numbers. We found recollection to be the same for both young adults in the divided attention condition and older adults in the full attention condition, suggesting that the ability to remember associative information is impeded by divided attention in young adults to the same degree as it is impeded in older adults under full attention. During divided attention, young adults relied more heavily on familiarity, which mimics age-related memory for associations. However, our analyses also showed that divided attention at retrieval in young adults does not completely mimic the associative deficit seen in older adults. Nevertheless, these findings imply that a recollection deficit is an underlying factor in older adults' association deficit.