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Effects of age on implicit memory: Implications for single and multiple-systems theories

Ward, EV; (2013) Effects of age on implicit memory: Implications for single and multiple-systems theories. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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Explicit memory declines with age, but research suggests that implicit memory may be preserved. For example, recognition memory is typically weaker in healthy older relative to young adults while performance on implicit tests such as perceptual identification is often comparable between groups (i.e., they show equivalent priming). Such observations are commonly taken as evidence for distinct explicit and implicit memory systems, but there are several concerns with this interpretation. One prominent issue is that dissociations between explicit and implicit memory may arise due to differences in the way in which the two are traditionally measured. In this thesis, I aimed to overcome some of the problems and provide a more robust test of a key multiple-systems prediction: that priming is preserved in old age despite reduced recognition memory. The two memory phenomena were measured concurrently trial-by-trial using the continuous identification with recognition (CID-R) task. In three experiments recognition was significantly reduced by age, and there was a reliable reduction in priming when the data were combined across experiments to increase statistical power. It is often argued that age effects in priming reflect the use of explicit strategies which are more beneficial to young adults (‘explicit contamination’), so in a second stream of experiments I examined the contribution of test awareness and explicit processing to priming in young adults on the CID task. No evidence that priming is affected by these factors was produced, thus it is unlikely that young individuals were able to substantially boost their performance on this task in relation to older adults by using an explicit strategy. Collectively, the findings indicate that performance on implicit tests is not always age-invariant, and that the present age-related reduction in priming cannot be attributed to explicit contamination. The results are compatible with the view that a single system drives explicit and implicit memory phenomena.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Effects of age on implicit memory: Implications for single and multiple-systems theories
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Ageing, Memory, Recognition, Priming, Explicit contamination, Explicit memory, Implicit memory
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > VP: Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1384784
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