Agerelated changes in ProM proper and in explicit episodic RetM

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The main goal of this experiment was to test the hypothesis that ProM is more sensitive to aging than RetM, more specifically, to examine whether age-related changes in cognition have a larger effect on ProM proper than on explicit episodic RetM. We used the same basic method as for the experiment reported above. Each participant was tested in two sessions scheduled at least 24-hours apart. The retention-interval manipulation was not used. Instead, we manipulated the nature of the to-be-remembered materials by requiring subjects to learn a list of 15 unrelated common words for one session, and a list of 15 related common words (3 words each from 5 different categories, such as fruit or furniture) for the other session. The assignment of materials was counterbalanced.

The subjects were 111 community-living older adults who participated in the Victoria Longitudinal Study (VLS). (For a detailed description of this project and of the subjects, see Hultsch, Hertzog, Dixon & Small, 1998.) They were between 67 and 93 years of age, highly educated, and generally in good health. Brief descriptive data on the subjects are provided in table 3. As indicated by the table, the subjects were arranged into two groups, one consisting of young-old adults (67-74) and the other of old-old adults (75-93).

Table 3

Descriptive data on participants

Table 3

Descriptive data on participants

Age group (years)

Age effects"

67-74

75-93

r2

F(1, 109)

N

60

51

Sex

Men

21

21

Women

39

30

Education

M

14.3

13.9

.007

0.77

SD

3.16

3.14

ETS vocabulary

M

43.0

44.5

< .001

0.06

SD

5.47

5.94

WAIS-R Digit Symbolb

M

43.2

39.5

.092

10.98*

SD

7.34

9.56

Optimal overall health ratingc

M

1.75

1.59

.010

1.04

SD

0.70

0.67

a. Age effects were computed by regression analysis.

b. WAIS-R Digit Symbol scores (Wechsler, 1981).

c. Participants used a 5-point scale to rate their health relative to ''perfect health'' (0 = very good to 4 = very poor).

a. Age effects were computed by regression analysis.

b. WAIS-R Digit Symbol scores (Wechsler, 1981).

c. Participants used a 5-point scale to rate their health relative to ''perfect health'' (0 = very good to 4 = very poor).

On the RetM test, the materials manipulation had the expected effect. Overall free recall was higher on the related list (M = 10.32, SD = 2.19) than on the unrelated list (M = 7.30, SD = 2.35): F(1,108) = 224.29, MSE = 2.62. The recall-test means also show a higher level of performance for the young-old adults than for the old-old adults (r2 = .076, F(1,109) = 8.93, MSE = 51.24). Additional analyses that examined recall performance after the first and second list-learning trials showed the expected increase from trial 1 (M = 8.08, SD = 2.01) to trial 2 (M = 9.61, SD = 2.27): F(1,110) = 146.72, MSE = 0.89. Recall that performance was higher immediately after the second learning trial than when it followed ProM cue detection (M = 8.64, SD = 2.48): F(1,110) = 69.88, MSE = 0.74.

Figure 4 shows ProM test performance. The top panel shows the proportion of participants who detected the ProM cue, and the bottom panel shows the level or size of the cue at the time it was detected. Although they draw attention to different aspects of performance, both panels show the same pattern of effects: higher performance by the young-old group than the old-old group. There was no influence due to the materials manipulation. These observations were supported by the outcome of statistical analyses, which revealed a significant age effect on the cue detection data in the top panel (r2 = .068, F(1,109) = 8.01, MSE = 1,12) and on the cue size data in the bottom panel (r2 = .078, F(1,109) = 9.28, MSE = 257.05). No other effects were significant.

We used hierarchical regression analyses to examine more directly the hypothesis that age-related changes in cognition have a larger effect on ProM proper than on explicit episodic RetM. In contrast to this expectation, the results showed comparable effects, revealing significant r2 values of .078 and .066 for ProM and RetM, respectively.

In a final analysis, we explored the relationship between ProM proper and explicit episodic RetM, as well as the relationship between these and performance on the card-sorting task. Card sorting is a highly resource-demanding task. For this analysis, we used a separate index of sorting cards without distractors (CS-ND) versus sorting cards in the presence of distractors (CS-D). The results are summarized in table 4. The table corroborates the outcome of the regression analysis by showing similar

Figure 4

Average ProM test performance as a function of age group. (Bars are standard deviations.) The top panel shows the proportion of participants who detected the ProM cue; the bottom panel shows the size of the ProM cue when it was detected.

Young-old Old-old

Figure 4

Average ProM test performance as a function of age group. (Bars are standard deviations.) The top panel shows the proportion of participants who detected the ProM cue; the bottom panel shows the size of the ProM cue when it was detected.

Table 4

The pattern of intercorrelations of age, RetM, ProM, and card sorting under different conditions

Table 4

The pattern of intercorrelations of age, RetM, ProM, and card sorting under different conditions

Age

RetM

ProM

CS-ND

CS-D

Age

-0.26

0.28

0.35

0.23

RetM

-0.26

-0.21

-0.33

-0.27

ProM

0.28

-0.21

0.32

-0.24

CS-ND

0.35

-0.33

0.32

0.66

CS-D

0.23

-0.27

-0.24

0.66

correlation for ProM and RetM with age. (The different signs of the coefficients reflect the manner in which ProM and RetM performance were scored.) Also noteworthy in table 4 is the low correlation between ProM proper and explicit episodic RetM.

These findings complement those of the preceding experiment by showing a different kind of performance dissociation between explicit episodic RetM and ProM proper. In the preceding experiment, the retention-interval manipulation influenced ProM-proper test performance but not RetM test performance. By contrast, the materials manipulation used for the present experiment affected RetM test performance but not ProM-proper test performance. The results from the present experiment also showed that another factor, age group, had a comparable influence on both test types. This combination of findings illustrates the complex relationship between ProM proper and explicit episodic RetM.

The correlation data from the second experiment do not support the view that aging has a more profound effect on ProM-proper test performance than on explicit-episodic-RetM test performance (see Craik, 1986). The results revealed similar age-related performance declines in ProM proper and explicit episodic RetM. The results also showed that a widely used index of processing resources—card-sorting task performance— was only weakly and similarly correlated with ProM and RetM test performance. This finding replicates and extends the results reported by Uttl et al. (2001), and together with the outcome from the present experiment, they undermine the proposal that ProM test performance is more dependent on attention resources than RetM test performance.

Notes

1. Like all analogies, the analogy between prospectors and ProM is not perfect. A prospector is likely to use a conscious strategy to search the environment for telltale signs. By contrast, an important and defining feature of some ProM tasks (e.g., getting groceries en route from work to home) is that the search for task-relevant cues (e.g., the supermarket) is not guided by a strategy that is maintained in conscious awareness. For such tasks, the cues appear as part of ongoing thoughts, actions, or situations (e.g., driving home), when attention is focused elsewhere (e.g., on driving or listening to the radio).

2. The critical difference between monitoring and ProM proper is not defined by the time interval between instructions and the ProM cue. Monitoring tasks are those where an intention is maintained in consciousness until it needs to be executed. In contrast, for ProM proper, intentions are not maintained in consciousness through the retention interval while performing an ongoing task (see James, 1890). A clear operational distinction between monitoring and ProM proper may be difficult to achieve in each case. However, ProM researchers might go forward, as did RetM researchers in the 1960s (when they struggled to find clear operational distinctions between short- and long-term memory), by avoiding boundary cases and instead focus research on clear examples of monitoring and ProM proper.

3. The pixel size of the pictures used as ProM cues and as distractors varied slightly among the experiments; the experiments also differed slightly in terms of the number of ProM cue-size increments that were used. (Precise method details are reported in Uttl, Graf & Dixon, in preparation, and in Graf & Uttl, in preparation.)

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