Wilson on Recognition Memory in Cognitive bag lunch Weds. Feb. 1 at noon

Merika Wilson (UMass) will present in the Cognitive Bag Lunch Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 12pm in Tobin 521B. All are welcome! Title and abstract follow.

Recognition Memory Shielded from Perceptual but not Semantic Interference in Natural Aging

In the Deese–Roediger–McDermott (DRM) paradigm, false memory for unstudied lures depends upon interference created by semantic associations between lures and studied items. It has been hypothesized that older adults have more false memories than young adults due to age-related structural changes in the medial temporal lobe (MTL). There is conflicting evidence as to whether this memory impairment in older adults is also present when the words on the list are perceptually related. In a modified DRM paradigm, we presented multiple interleaved lists of semantically related or phonetically/orthographically related words. Using signal detection theory to interpret our data, we found that older adults’ recognition memory performance was impaired less by perceptual interference than by semantic interference. Additionally, older adults were impaired less by perceptual interference than young adults, and impaired more by semantic interference than young adults. We suggest that inconsistencies in the previous literature on false memory in older adults may have stemmed from using false alarm rates as the dependent variable of interest, rather than using d-prime (which provides a measure of accuracy uncontaminated by response bias). Moreover, we interpret the present results in terms of age-related advantages, namely that older adults have more precise perceptual representations and richer associative semantic networks.