Karl Healey, Psychology Department, University of Pennsylvania
Title: The Nature and Sources of lndividual and Age Differences in Episodic Memory
Ebbinghaus Empire Series 2013-2014
Abstract: A person’s ability to retrieve information form memory changes as they age. Memory ability also varies among individuals at a given age. Attempts to understand these age and individual differences have not yet leveraged state-of-the-art measures that describe the dynamics of recall: how recall is initiated and post–initiation transitions among items. I show that individual differences in these measures account for 83% of the variability in overall recall accuracy and over 80% of the variance shared between memory and intelligence. Among older adults, these same measures reveal a complex pattern of preserved and impaired episodic memory performance. I use the context maintenance and retrieval model of memory search to develop a novel theory of age-related memory changes. This theory implicates four memory processes: 1) the ability to sustain attention across an encoding episode, 2) the ability to retrieve contextual representations for use as retrieval cues, 3) the ability to monitor retrievals and reject intrusions, and 4) the level of noise in retrieval competitions. I outline a theory of how the ability to control drift of temporal context may provide a unified framework for understanding variation across a range of cognitive activities.
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