Previous work has shown that memory performance in older adults is affected by activation of a stereotype of age-related memory decline. In the present experiment, we examined whether stereotype threat would affect metamemory in older adults; that is, whether under stereotype threat they make poorer judgments about what they could remember. We tested older adults (MAge= 66.18 years) on a task in which participants viewed words paired with point values and “bet” on whether they could later recall each word. If (...) they bet on and recalled a word, they gained those points, but if they bet on and failed to recall a word, they lost those points. Thus, this task required participants to monitor how much they could remember and prioritize high value items. Participants performed this task over six lists of items either under stereotype threat about age-related memory decline or not under stereotype threat. Participants from both groups performed similarly on initial lists, but on later lists, participants under stereotype threat showed impaired performance as indicated by a lower average point score and a lower average gamma coefficient. The results suggest that a modest effect of stereotype threat on recall combined with a modest effect on metacognitive judgments to result in a performance deficit. This pattern of results may reflect an effect of stereotype threat on executive control reducing the ability to strategically use memory. (shrink)
Reasoning requires making inferences based on information gleaned from a set of relations. The relational complexity of a problem increases with the number of relations that must be considered simultaneously to make a correct inference. Previous work (Viskontas, Morrison, Holyoak, Hummel, & Knowlton, 2004) has shown that older adults have difficulty integrating multiple relations during analogical reasoning, especially when required to inhibit irrelevant information. We report two experiments that examined the ability to integrate multiple relations in younger, middle-aged, and older (...) adults performing two other reasoning tasks. These tasks systematically varied relational complexity, and required either inductive reasoning (a version of the Raven's Matrices Task) or transitive inference. Our results show that as people age they have increasing difficulty in solving problems that require them to integrate multiple relations. This difficulty may stem from a decrease in working memory capacity. (shrink)
Studies of neuropsychological patients are relevant to models of how long-term memories are stored. If amnesia is considered a binding deficit and not a difficulty in transferring information from short-term to long-term memory, it is unclear why context-free semantic learning is impaired. Also the model should account for the reverse temporal gradient seen in patients with semantic dementia.
Halford et al.'s analysis of relational complexity provides a possible framework for characterizing the symbolic functions of the prefrontal cortex. Studies of prefrontal patients have revealed that their performance is selectively impaired on tasks that require integration of two binary relations (i.e., tasks that Halford et al.'s analysis would identify as three-dimensional). Analyses of relational complexity show promise of helping to understand the neural substrate of thinking.
Aggleton & Brown predict that recognition and episodic recall depend on different brain systems and can thus be dissociated from one another. However, intact recall with impaired recognition has not yet been demonstrated if the same type of information is used in both tests. Current evidence suggests that processes underlying familiarity-based recognition are redundant with processes underlying episodic memory.