Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Sharon Mutter (Director), Dr. Steven Haggbloom, Dr. Andrew Mienaltowski

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Aging research on item- and associative-recognition memory has demonstrated that older adults are deficient in forming associations between two unrelated stimuli. Although older adult performance on tests of item-recognition is similar to younger adult performance, older adults perform worse than younger adults on tests of associative memory (Naveh-Benjamin, Hussain, Guez, & Bar-On, 2003). In addition to the idea that younger adult performance on associative-recognition tests is superior to that of older adults, research has shown that reward cues can enhance motivated learning and item memory performance of younger adults. In an fMRI study that examined the influence of reward anticipation on episodic memory formation, Adcock and colleagues (2006) examined memory performance in response to reward cues that preceded single stimuli and found that young adult participants remembered more stimuli associated with high value reward cues than those associated with low value reward cues. The aim of the current study was to examine whether reward cues that precede a stimulus pair might enhance an association between two stimuli and influence younger and older adult performance on tests of item- and associative-recognition. Our study confirms the idea that while older adult memory for individual items is intact, older adult memory for associations is impaired (Naveh-Benjamin et al., 2003). The results supported the idea that younger and older adult item-recognition is better for high versus low reward cues, but the reward cues had no influence on the associative-recognition of either age group. Therefore, the age-related associative deficit was not improved by reward cues that preceded each stimulus pair.


Cognition and Perception | Cognitive Psychology | Developmental Psychology