Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Effects of Age on Estimated Familiarity in the Process Dissociation Procedure: The Role of Noncriterial Recollection

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Effects of Age on Estimated Familiarity in the Process Dissociation Procedure: The Role of Noncriterial Recollection

Article excerpt

Research on recognition memory using the process dissociation procedure has suggested that although recollection (R) declines with age, familiarity (F) remains age invariant. However, this research has used relatively broad definitions of R. An important question concerns age-related changes in memory when R is defined in terms of specific event details. Yonelinas and Jacoby (1996a) required young participants to recollect specific, criterial details of a prior event and found evidence that recollection of noncriterial details elevated estimates of F yet still operated automatically. In the present study, the issue of noncriterial recollection was examined in the context of aging. The results replicated the effects of noncriterial recollection for the young, but not for the older adults, who also showed overall reduced levels of familiarity.

Dual-process theories of memory propose that recognition decisions can be made on the basis of either recollection or familiarity (Atkinson & Juola, 1974; Jacoby, 1991; Mandler, 1980). Recollection is thought to involve conscious retrieval of the episodic details of a prior event, whereas familiarity is thought to reflect undifferentiated feelings of oldness that occur in the absence of memory for specific episodic details. Evidence supporting this distinction has come from a variety of sources, including behavioral experiments with healthy adults (e.g., Hintzman, Caulton, & Levitin, 1998; Jacoby, 1999; Toth, 1996; Yonelinas, 1997, 2001), behavioral experiments with memory-disordered populations (e.g., Aggleton & Shaw, 1996; Verfaellie & Treadwell, 1993; Yonelinas, Kroll, Dobbins, Lazzara, & Knight, 1998), and experiments in which neural activity has been investigated during the performance of recognition memory tasks (e.g., Curran, 2000; Henson, Rugg, Shallice, Josephs, & Dolan, 1999; Yonelinas, Hopfinger, Buonocore, Kroll, & Baynes, 2001). Yonelinas (2002) provides an excellent review of each of these areas.

One influential technique for separating and measuring recollection and familiarity is the process dissociation (PD) procedure. As originally described by Jacoby (1991), participants first study two sets of items, each presented within a distinctive context (e.g., List 1 and List 2). Memory for these items is then assessed in separate inclusion and exclusion test conditions, each of which contains items from List 1, items from List 2, and new (unstudied) items. In the inclusion condition, participants are asked to accept (say "yes" to) items originally studied in either List 1 or List 2 and to reject (say "no" to) new items. In the exclusion condition, in contrast, participants are asked to accept only items from List 2 and to reject both new items and those from List 1. Note that in this description, List 1 represents the list of interest, since it is only items from this list that the participants are instructed to both accept and reject (in the inclusion and exclusion tests, respectively).

Estimates of recollection and familiarity for items from the target study context (List 1) are computed from equations representing performance in the two test conditions. Thus, assuming independence between recollection and familiarity, the probability of accepting List 1 items in the inclusion condition can be expressed as the probability that those items are recollected (R) plus the probability that those items are familiar (F) in the absence of recollection [i.e., p("yes" I inclusion) = R + F(1 - R)]. Acceptance of List 1 items in the exclusion condition, in contrast, reflects the probability that those items are familiar in the absence of recollection [i.e., p("yes" | exclusion) = F(1 - R)]. Given overall performance in the inclusion and exclusion conditions [i.e., p("yes" | List 1 items)], a measure of R can be obtained by subtracting performance in the exclusion condition from that in the inclusion condition [R = inclusion - exclusion]. …

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