Memory for the temporal order of events is an essential cognitive function, but has been observed to decline in the process of normal, healthy aging. One avenue that has yet to be explored in this body of research is how temporal order memory relates to the establishment of new, causal associations between ordered events, and how prior causal knowledge influences judgments of event order in older adults. These questions are evaluated in two experiments using a novel stimulus set. The stimulus set introduced here includes paired images depicting both cause-and-effect sequences, and pairs of events that merely share a semantic or thematic association. Continuous sequences of both related and unrelated pairs of these images were presented during an incidental encoding task, and participants' memory for the order of target pairs was later evaluated in a yes / no temporal order recognition judgment task. A subset of participants also completed an item recognition task to address dissociations between memory for item identity and for item order. The results provided new support for age-related declines in memory for order, together with relatively intact performance for recognizing an item's identity. The results also identify age-related changes in the ability to form new ordered associations between unrelated, unassociated events. The basic features of causal order learning are evaluated in light of these results, and point to the importance of temporal proximity between events in establishing ordered cause-and-effect relations. Of particular interest was the influence of prior causal order knowledge on order memory judgments, and mixed support is found for an interaction between prior knowledge of an event sequence's `logical' order, and accurate recognition memory for those events.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2011. Major:Psychology. Advisor: Wilma Koutstaal, PhD. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 171 pages, appendices A-C.
Time further out: an investigation of age-related changes in temporal and causal order memory..
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