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Implicit and Explicit Consequences of Distraction for Aging and Memory

This investigation explored implicit and explicit memory consequences of age differences in susceptibility to distraction when previous distraction occurs as target information in a later memory task. Younger and older adults were presented with either implicit (Study 1) or explicit (Studies 2 and 3) memory tasks that included previously distracting and new words.
Study 1 explored whether prior exposure to distraction would transfer to improve memory when previously distracting words were included in list to be studied for a recall task. Older adults recalled more previously distracting than new words whereas younger adults recalled the same amount of previously distracting and new words. This initial study was implicit in its use of previously distracting information in that participants were neither informed nor aware of their prior exposure to words in the recall task. Here, only older adults’ memory was influenced by prior exposure to distraction and their recall actually increased to the level of younger adults with implicit use of distraction to improve performance.
Subsequent studies investigated explicit influences of prior exposure to distraction on later memory. In Study 2, both younger and older adults showed reliable memory for previously distracting words in an explicit recognition task. These results suggest that although younger adults encode distraction, they do not transfer this information when previous distraction occurs as target stimuli in an implicit memory task. Study 3 investigated whether participants would transfer previous distraction to improve recall if the task was explicit in its use of previous distraction. When cueing instructions were given before the memory task informing participants of the connection between tasks, older adults once again recalled more previously distracting than new words. In contrast to the results of Study 1, younger adults also recalled more previously distracting than new words.
Taken together, the results indicate that younger adults do encode distraction, but they require explicit instructions to transfer their knowledge of distraction to later tasks. In contrast, older adults apply their knowledge of distraction in both implicit and explicit memory tasks. Implications are discussed in terms of inhibitory control theory and age differences in strategies engaged in memory tasks.
Date15 September 2011
CreatorsThomas, Ruthann C.
ContributorsHasher, Lynn
Source SetsLibrary and Archives Canada ETDs Repository / Centre d'archives des thèses électroniques de Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
Detected LanguageEnglish

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