Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Adult Age Differences in Binding Actors and Actions in Memory for Events

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Adult Age Differences in Binding Actors and Actions in Memory for Events

Article excerpt

Three experiments provide evidence for an age-related deficit in the binding of actors with their actions. Young and older adults were tested on their memory for a series of events, each involving an actor performing a simple action. Older adults had greater difficulty than did young adults at discriminating old events from novel conjunctions of familiar actors and actions, even when the two groups were equated on memory for each of those features in isolation by using a longer retention interval for young adults. These results are consistent with an age-related associative deficit linked to declines in hippocampal and prefrontal cortical functioning. They further provide evidence that age differences in source monitoring are not limited to speech acts but, rather, generalize to more complex actions. Finally, they provide evidence for age differences in susceptibility to conjunction memory errors, stemming from decreased reliance on recollection and increased reliance on familiarity with increased age. Example videos may be downloaded from www.psychonomic.org/archive.

Accurate memory for an event requires that one remember not only the constituent features of the event, such as the people involved and the actions that were performed, but also how those features went together. This process of associating people with their actions is an example of binding. Binding involves creating associations among a number of stimulus features in order to represent that they belong together as parts of the same stimulus. Binding is necessary because the different features of a stimulus (e.g., shape, color, or motion) are represented in separate feature maps in the brain and, thus, it is necessary to represent that a feature in one map corresponds to a feature in a second map. This requirement of binding, however, brings with it the possibility for binding errors, in which a feature from one stimulus is mistakenly associated with a feature from another stimulus, causing one to believe that those two features belonged together (see, e.g., Treisman & Schmidt, 1982).

The ability to successfully bind people with their actions is crucial to being a functioning member of society. For example, one must remember who has lent one some money and who has listened to one's story, so that one can avoid repaying the wrong person and avoid repeatedly telling the same story to the same person. Although everyone may be susceptible to binding errors at one time or another, there is reason to believe that older adults may be particularly prone to errors in the binding of actors with actions. In particular, binding in memory seems to depend on the functioning of the hippocampus (Eichenbaum & Bunsey, 1995; Giovanello, Schnyer, & Verfaellie, 2004; Gluck & Myers, 2001; Henkel, Johnson, & De Leonardis, 1998; Kroll, Knight, Metcalfe, Wolf, & Tulving, 1996; O'Reilly & Rudy, 2001; Squire, 1992) and the prefrontal cortex (Glisky, Rubin, & Davidson, 2001; Prabhakaran, Narayanan, Zhao, & Gabrieli, 2000), and these are some of the most profoundly affected brain areas in normal aging (Davis & Bernstein, 1992; Raz, 2000; Raz, Rodrigue, Head, Kennedy, & Acker, 2004; Selkoe, 1992). Furthermore, it has been proposed that impairments in hippocampal and preftontal cortical functioning cause older adults to exhibit an associative deficit, or a difficulty in binding together the elements of a complex stimulus (Cabeza, 2006; Naveh-Benjamin, 2000; NavehBenjamin, Hussain, Guez, & Bar-On, 2003). We thus test the prediction in the present research that older adults may be more susceptible than are young adults to binding errors in memory for actors and actions.

A number of prior studies have demonstrated that older adults have greater difficulty than do young adults at binding the attributes of a stimulus together in memory. For example, Chalfonte and Johnson ( 1996) found that older adults had greater difficulty than did young adults at associating a picture of an object with a particular location in a grid or a particular color in which it was printed, even when the two groups were equated on memory for the individual stimulus features. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.