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Memory. 2016 Sep;24(8):1091-107. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2015.1069852. Epub 2015 Jul 31.

Proactive interference and concurrent inhibitory processes do not differentially affect item and associative recognition: Implication for the age-related associative memory deficit.

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a Achva Academic College , Be'er-Sheva Mental Health Center , Arugot , Israel.
b Department of Psychological Sciences , University of Missouri , Columbia , MO , USA.


Previous studies have suggested an associative deficit hypothesis [Naveh-Benjamin, M. ( 2000 ). Adult age differences in memory performance: Tests of an associative deficit hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26, 1170-1187] to explain age-related episodic memory declines. The hypothesis attributes part of the deficient episodic memory performance in older adults to a difficulty in creating and retrieving cohesive episodes. In this article, we further evaluate this hypothesis by testing two alternative processes that potentially mediate associative memory deficits in older adults. Four experiments are presented that assess whether failure of inhibitory processes (proactive interference in Experiments 1 and 2), and concurrent inhibition (in Experiments 3 and 4) are mediating factors in age-related associative deficits. The results suggest that creating conditions that require the operation of inhibitory processes, or that interfere with such processes, cannot simulate associative memory deficit in older adults. Instead, such results support the idea that associative memory deficits reflect a unique binding failure in older adults. This failure seems to be independent of other cognitive processes, including inhibitory and other resource-demanding processes.


Ageing; associative memory; binding; episodic memory; inhibitory processes

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