Item-specific processing reduces false recognition in older and younger adults: Separating encoding and retrieval using signal detection and the diffusion model

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Our study examined processing effects in improving memory accuracy in older and younger adults. Specifically, we evaluated the effectiveness of item-specific and relational processing instructions relative to a read-only control task on correct and false recognition in younger and older adults using a categorized-list paradigm. In both age groups, item-specific and relational processing improved correct recognition versus a read-only control task, and item-specific encoding decreased false recognition relative to both the relational and read-only groups. This pattern was found in older adults despite overall elevated rates of false recognition. We then applied signal-detection and diffusion-modeling analyses, which separately utilized recognition responses and the latencies to those responses to estimate contributions of encoding and monitoring processes on recognition decisions. Converging evidence from both analyses demonstrated that item-specific processing benefits to memory accuracy were due to improvements of both encoding (estimates of d′ and drift rate) and monitoring (estimates of lambda and boundary separation) processes, and, importantly, occurred similarly in both younger and older adults. Thus, older and younger adults showed similar encoding-based and test-based benefits of item-specific processing to enhance memory accuracy.

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Memory & Cognition