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Neuropsychologia. 2009 Sep;47(11):2164-73. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2008.11.025. Epub 2008 Nov 30.

Aging reduces veridical remembering but increases false remembering: neuropsychological test correlates of remember-know judgments.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1876, USA.


In 1985 Tulving introduced the remember-know procedure, whereby subjects are asked to distinguish between memories that involve retrieval of contextual details (remembering) and memories that do not (knowing). Several studies have been reported showing age-related declines in remember hits, which has typically been interpreted as supporting dual-process theories of cognitive aging that align remembering with a recollection process and knowing with a familiarity process. Less attention has been paid to remember false alarms, or their relation to age. We reviewed the literature examining aging and remember/know judgments and show that age-related increases in remember false alarms, i.e., false remembering, are as reliable as age-related decreases in remember hits, i.e., veridical remembering. Moreover, a meta-analysis showed that the age effect size for remember hits and false alarms are similar, and larger than age effects on know hits and false alarms. We also show that the neuropsychological correlates of remember hits and false alarms differ. Neuropsychological tests of medial-temporal lobe functioning were related to remember hits, but tests of frontal-lobe functioning and age were not. By contrast, age and frontal-lobe functioning predicted unique variance in remember false alarms, but MTL functioning did not. We discuss various explanations for these findings and conclude that any comprehensive explanation of recollective experience will need to account for the processes underlying both remember hits and false alarms.

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