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The Effects of Value on Context-Item Associative Memory in Younger and Older Adults


Valuable items are often remembered better than items that are less valuable by both older and younger adults, but older adults typically show deficits in binding. Here, we examine whether value affects the quality of recognition memory and the binding of incidental details to valuable items. In Experiment 1, participants learned English words each associated with a point-value they earned for correct recognition with the goal of maximizing their score. In Experiment 2, value was manipulated by presenting items that were either congruent or incongruent with an imagined state of physiological need (e.g., hunger). In Experiment 1, point-value was associated with enhanced recollection in both age groups. Memory for the color associated with the word was in fact reduced for high-value recollected items compared with low-value recollected items, suggesting value selectively enhances binding of task-relevant details. In Experiment 2, memory for learned images was enhanced by value in both age groups. However, value differentially enhanced binding of an imagined context to the item in younger and older adults, with a strong trend for increased binding in younger adults only. These findings suggest that value enhances episodic encoding in both older and younger adults but that binding of associated details may be reduced for valuable items compared to less valuable items, particularly in older adults. (PsycINFO Database Record

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