DOCUMBNT RBSUMB ED 267 336 AUTHOR TITLE SPONS AGENC7 PUB DATE GRANT NOTE PUB TYPE EDRS PRICE DESCRIPTORS CG 018 916 Howard, Darlene V. Aging and Episodic Priming: The Propositional Structure of Sentences. National Inst, on Aging (dhhS/PHS), Bethesda, MD. Aug 85 R01AG02751 7p.; Paper presented at the Annual American Psychological Association Angeles, C/i, August 23-27, 1985). Reports - Uesearch/Technical (143) Speeches/Conference Papers (150) NFOl/PCOl Plus Postage. *Age Differences; Aging *Meaory; *01der Adults; *Hord Recognition *Priming Effects Convention (93rd, Los of the (Individuals) r Memorization; *Recogn i t i on ( Psychoxogy ) ; IDENTIFIERS ABSTRACT When presented with linguistic material, elderly adults are often unable to report as much material as are younger people. To ascertain whether elderly adults are as sensitive as young adults to the underlying structure of the to>be- remembered sentences, a study was conducted using the item recognition priming technique. In thxs technique, people attempt to remember sentences containing unassocxated nouns. The subjects are asked to decide whether or not /?S*ri™^ ^^^^^ occurred in the studied sentence. Thirty-six young (18-25 years) and 36 elderly (64-82 years) subjects were tested with a series of 288 item recognition trials consisting of 144 occurring nouns and 144 distractor nouns. When the primed trials were compared with the control trials, a significant and prime effect was found for young and elderly people with no significant differences between the age groups. The differences on paired-recognition of the nouns, a more traditional measure of memory, were significant with young subjects being correct for 83 percent of the trials and elderly subjects being correct for 72 percent of the trials. Elderly persons appeared to be less sensitive to the underlying propositicnal structure of the sentence than were younger subjects. Younger people showed more wi thin-proposition than between-proposition priming, whereas the elderly subjects did not. Using tests of memory without awareness may give a more complete measure of memory across the lifespan than do traditional measures. (ABL) * Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made * from the original document. * SOD AGING AND EPISODIC PRIMING: THB PHOPOSniONAL STRUCTURE OF SENTENCES Darlena V. Hovrardy Georgetom University Abstract Thirty-six young (18-25 years) and 36 elderly (64-82 years) people studied 36 sentences of the form N0UN1 - VERB1 - N0UN2 - oonj - N0UN3 » VERB2 - N0UN4. Then they made it«n recognition Judgmtjnts regarding whether single nouns had occurred in the sentences. Both young and elderly people showed priming between the nouns within the sentences; a noun was recognized faster when it was tested immediatey after another noun from the same sentence than irtien it was tested following a noun from a different sentence. However, young people showed more within-proposition than between-proposition priming, whereas the elderly did not, indicating thit the elderly are less sensitive than the young to the prepositional structure of the sentences. 00 CD O UM. KPAKTMCWr OF EDUCATION NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION 7AT10NAL RES0»"1CES INFORMATION CENTER lERlC) K document hM b—n reproduced is received from the person or orgenizetion ongmeting it. □ Minor cheoget heve been made to improve reproductHX> quality. • Pomttof wworopmionettetedinthis. cu- ment do not necetMrrty represent officisl NIE position or policy "PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE THIS MATERIAL HAS BEEN GRANTED BY TO THE EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES INFORMATION CENTER (ERIC)." This work was presented at the annual meetings of the American Psychological Association, Los Angeles, August 1985. This research was supported by Grant R01AG02751 from the National Institute on Aging. ERIC AGING AND EPISODIC PRIMING: THE PROPOSniONAL STROCTUHE OF SENTENCES Darlentt V. Howard, Qaorgatown Onlvaralty Hhan elderly adults are praaented with linguiatlo natarlala such aa aentenoea and atorlea, upon later teatlng they are tinabla to report aa much of the material aa young. It la unclear, honeyer, whether thla dlfferenoe la only quantitative, or whether It la alao qualitative. In the aenae that the elderly people are leaa aenaltlve than young to the underlying ideas (propoaltlona) conveyed in the paaaage. Some atudlea have found age similarity in sonsltlvlty to prepositional atructure (e.g., Spilich, 1983; Petroa, Tabor, Cooney, & Chabot, 1983), whereaa othera have found age differences (e.g., Cohen, 1979; Meyer & Rice, 1981). One possible reaaon for the discrepancy is that memory la typically aaaeaaed ualng the traditional recall and recognition accuracy measures. Theae may be called tests of "memory with awareness" (Jacoby & Witherspoon, 1982) in that people must make an introspective Judgment about whether and what they remember. For example, in recognition tests people are asked, "Do you remember having seen this sentence?" Such measures are likely to be influenced by adult age differences in cautiousness and criterion, and these may vary from study to study. The present experiment seeks to determine whether elderly adults are as sensitive as young to the underlying prepositional structure of to-be-remembered sentences, by using a method introduced by Ratcllff and McKoon (1978) in work with college students. In this so-called Item recQgnltion prlnlng ififihniauef people are asked to memorize sentences consisting of previously unassociated nouns, e.g., THE KING CLOSED THE WINDOW AS THE TOWN BECAME CINDERS. Then they are given a series of item recognition trials in which they must decide whether or not individual words occurred in the studied set of sentences. Ratcliff and HcEoon demonstrated that among college atudenta, worda from the aame studied sentence prime each other, that Page 2 l8 the word TOVN is recognized faster following WINDOW than following a word froB a different studied sentence. The fact that this prlnlng occurs between previously unassoolated words Indicates that people have stored and retained new associations among the words within studied sentences. Further » young people have apparently stored the prepositional structure of the sentences, since words taken froa within the same proposition (e.g., CINDERS-TOWN) prime each other more than words taken from between the two propositions (e.g., WINDOW-TOWN). This lt«n recognition priming method seems particularly useful for lifespan studies, since It Is a test of "'memory without awareness.** That is, memory for an association is inferred from a pattern of response times, rud the person need not judge whether he/she remembers the association. In earljer research (Howard, Heisey, & Shaw, In press) we have used this method to assess memory for one prepositional sentences (e.g., THE DRAGON SNIFFED THE FUDGE). We found that after only moderate amounts of study of the sentences, elderly individuals showed as much priming as young, despite the fact that there were large age differences in cued recall of the same sentences. In the present experiment, seventy-tvo people were tested, 36 young (mean age = 20.5 years, SD = 1.5, range = 18-25) and 36 elderly adults (mean age - 69.9 years, SDs4.5, range = 64-82). None of the participants was Institutionalized and the age groups were similar in WAIS vocabulary score and educational level. Each participant studied a list of 36 two-propositional sentences of the form N0UN1 - VERB1 - N00N2 - conj - N0DN3 - VERB2 - N00N4. The nouns within sentences were chosen to be unassocated with each other. After two study periods totalling 30 seconds of study per sentence, people ccMnpleted a series of 288 item recognition trials consisting of the 144 nouns that had appeared in the sentences as well as 144 distractor nouns matched to the sentence nouns in length and frequency. Prime tvoe was the major witbin-subjects variable. Counterbalancing insured that across subjects each Page 3 of the sentence nouns was testad equally often in each of three prime type conditions: oontrol in which a noun was tested following a noun from a different studied sentence, hfttwaftn^DroBoaltion prima in which a noun was tested followiog a noun from the other proposition of the vmme studied sentence, and within^proposition ju^ja^ in which a noun was tested following a noun from the same studied proposition. Each participant then completed a paired-recognition and a cued-recall test of the sentences, with the order of these being counterbalanced across subjects. The palred^raQognltion test consisted of 36 trials (18 "7/es* and 18 "no") in which two words from the sentences were presented together, and people were asked to report "yes" if the two words had come from the same sentence and "no" otherwise. For the cued recall test there were 36 trials, in each of which the person was given a noun from one of the studied sentences and asked to recall the rest of the sentence. Across subjects, each of the four nouns in each sentence was used as the sentence cue the same number of times. There were three major findings. Ziiatt when primed trials (within- and between-proposition primes combined) are compared with control trials, young and elderly people both show a significant prime effect, P(2, 140) : 13.90, £<.001, with no significant difference in magnitude of the prime effect between the age groups. The prime effect (defined as response time on control trials minus response time on primed trials) was 96 msec for the young participants and 73 msec for the elderly. This indicates that both groups of participants had stored the associations among the words in the sentences. 2fififind> despite the age equivalence in overall priming described above, the traditional measures of mesory accuracy yield significant age differences in memory for the sentences. The difference between the cued recall of young and elderly is significant, £(1,68)=21.37t Ji<.0001. Of a possible 3 nouns that Page 4 could be recalled per aentencet the young recalled a mean of 1.55 and the elderly only •83. On paired-recognition of the nouna, there waa alao a aignificaat age difference, P(1,68)«88.96, a<.01. The young were correct on an average of S3% of the triala and the elderly on only 72%. When the above findings are conaidered together, they indicate that age differencea in mcoory are reduced Uhen priming, instead of recognition or recall accuracy, is used as a meaaure. Thia ?^uggeata that at leaat some age differences on recall and recognition tasks are due to retrieval, rather than atorage, difficulties. IhlCily there ia, nonetheless, an age difference in the pattern of within- and between-proposition priming. In keeping uith McKoon and Ratcliff'a results with college students, the young people show a larger within-proposition than between-proposition prime effect (i.e., the response time difference between control triala and primed trials was 114 msec for within-proposition primes, but only 78 msec for between-proposition primes.) In contrast, the elderly participants revealed slightly (though not significantly) less priming for within- than between-propositon primes, showing prime effects of 60 msec and 85 msec for within- and between- proposition priming, reapectively. This observation ia also supported by correlations, rhe correlation between an individual's age and the magnitude of his/her between-proposition prime effect was not aignificant (£=-.10, Ji>.10), but the correlation between age and the within-proposition prime effect was significant (ii=-.28, Si<.02). This finding indicates that when memory structure is assessed via priming, the elderly persor is less sensitive to the underlying prepositional structure of the sentences than are young people. Thus, this method reveala qualitative differencea between young and elderly in manory atructure for sentences. In general, the preaent findings indicate that item recognition priming is a sensitive means of aaaeasing the structure of stored information across Page 5 the adult lifespan • Uelng such measures of Memory without awareness* may give a fuller picture of age differences and similarities in mMory than using only traditional measures that call upon ''memory with awareness.'' References Cohent 0. (1979)* Language comprehension In old age. Cognitive faZfibfilfigytJlt 412-429. Howard, D. V., Helsey, J. Q., 4 Shaw, R. J. (In press). Aging and the priming of newly learned associations. DftvelQ|Mnenfcal PavehQloyy . Jacoby, L. L., 4 Wltherspoon, D. (1982). Remembering without awareness. Canadian jlfiuoial sL Pavohoiogv , 300-324. Meyer, B. J. P., 4 Rice, G. E. (I98I). Information recalled from prose by young, middle, and old adult readers. Experimental A g in g Research > 2, 253-268. Petros, T., Tabor, L., Cooney, T., 4 Chabot, R. J. (I983). Adult age differences in sensitivity to semantic structure of prose. Developmental PsYQhologv> ja.> 907-914. Ratcliff, R., 4 McKoon, G. (1978). Priming in item recognition: E\rldence for the proposltlonal structure of senteaces. Journal qf Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior , Ji» 403-417* Spllich, G. J. (1983). Life-span components of text processing: Structural and procedural differences. Journal ^ Verbal Learning and Verbal Bsh^llQLf 21, 231-244.