Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program



English (en)

Date of Award

January 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Chair and Committee

Larry Jacoby


A common finding is that specific types of memory performance decline as a function of age. Among the situations that produce these differences are those in which proactive interference: PI) occurs. PI refers to impaired memory for new information as a result of previous learning of competing information. However, research has shown that PI situations can sometimes be facilitative to memory performance for both young and older adults when information is integrated effectively. One potential integration mechanism is the retrieval of earlier competing information during study of new information. Such instances have been referred to as "remindings", and they serve to preserve the temporal order of information. In the current experiments, I explored the role of remindings in age differences in memory performance in PI situations. A-B, A-D paired-associate learning paradigms were used to examine age differences in the effects of learning two responses: B and D) in association with one stimulus: A) on later memory for the response presented more recently: D). In addition, age differences in the occurrence of remindings were examined by comparing the tendency for responses that occurred first: B) to come to mind first at retrieval when participants were instructed to recall the response that occurred more recently: D). Results revealed that young adults were reminded more than older adults and that memory performance benefitted from remindings for each group. In addition, the deleterious effects of PI were observed when remindings did not occur. Finally, participants were sensitive to the effects of remindings, and there were individual differences in the extent to which remindings could be cognitively-controlled. Together, these findings illuminate the mechanisms underlying age differences in memory performance in PI situations, and potentially inform training regimens aimed at remediating age-related deficits produced by PI.


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