Publication Date

Fall 2016

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Sharon Mutter (Director), Andrew Mienaltowski, and Matthew Shake

Degree Program

Department of Psychological Sciences

Degree Type

Master of Science


There is a long history of research on the effects of reward motivation on memory, but there are still questions concerning how such motivational variables affect memory. In a study that examined the influence of reward anticipation on episodic memory, Adcock, Thangavel, Whitfield-Gabireli, Knutson, and Gabrieli (2006) found that memory was better for scenes preceded by high value reward cues than low value cues (see also Cushman, 2012; Spaniol, Schain, & Bowen, 2013). More recently, Castel, Murayama, Friedman, McGillivray, & Link (2013) observed that anticipation of reward influences selective attention to “to be remembered” (TBR) words and the memories that are formed in both younger (YA) and older adults (OA). Finally, in an examination of reward-motivated memory for both word items and pairs, Mutter, Luttrell, & Steen (2013) found that high reward enhanced associative memory for word pairs for both YA and OA. The theoretical explanation for this finding attributed word pair stimuli as promoting and high reward motivation as selectively enhancing relational encoding strategies for both OA and YA, producing reward effects for associative recognition performance only.

The present study conceptually replicated the methodology from Mutter, Luttrell, and Steen (2013) in an examination of how reward motivation at study affects non-verbal single item recognition and dual item recognition for picture pair stimuli. It was expected that high reward will induce both YA and OA to engage in more extensive encoding of TBR information, but that, due to age-related associative deficits (e.g., Naveh – Benjamin, Hussain, Guez, & Bar-On, 2003), the type of encoded representations would differ for the two groups. YA would perform better than OA on the types of recognition that require memory for relational information (i.e., associative and context recognition), but YA and OA would perform equally well on the types of recognition that require memory for item-specific information (i.e., pair and no context recognition). As compared to the word pair stimuli used by Mutter and colleagues (2013), it was expected that picture pair stimuli would alternatively promote item-specific encoding strategies for both OA and YA and high reward would selectively enhance single item recognition performance.


Cognition and Perception | Experimental Analysis of Behavior