Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Adult Development and Aging


College of Sciences and Health Professions

First Advisor

Allen, Philip

Subject Headings

Cognitive Psychology, Psychology


This study provides a better understanding of contributing factors to age differences in human episodic memory. A recurrent finding in recognition memory is that older adults tend to have lower overall accuracy and tend to make fewer false-alarm errors in judging new items, relative miss errors (Coyne, Allen & Wickens, 1986; Danziger, 1980; Poon and Fozard 1980). Two possible causes for decline in these abilities include an age-related decrement in speed of processing (Salthouse 1991) and changes in information processing ability due to entropy (Allen, Kaufman, Smitch, & Propper 1998a; Mallik et al., in preparation). Additionally, age differences may be partially explained by a tendency for older adults to exhibit a conservative response bias. Surprisingly this study found no age-related differences in recognition memory accuracy, and older adults did not show a more conservative response bias. Due to these null results for age, the study examined the role of response bias (propensity to indicate a probe as being recognized, or new) on recognition memory accuracy and the role of the release from proactive interference (PI) across age. This study introduces a new ERP (Event-Related Potential) component to measure the recognition of “miss” responses called “FN400 Below Threshold”. This component, when looked at collapsed across Experiment 1 & Experiment 2 was positively correlated to behavioral accuracy suggesting that a more conservative response criterion hurts overall behavioral accuracy. Experiment 2 found that words learned from four categories were easier to remember than words from a single category due to a reduction in interference across items. This effect was found for both age groups.

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