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Uncovering the Mechanisms which Underlie the Integrative Advantage in Healthy Aging

Dhir, P. (2017). Uncovering the Mechanisms which Underlie the Integrative Advantage in Healthy Aging. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


The current thesis aimed to investigate associative memory performance of older and younger adults through various manipulations involving unrelated and integrative word pairs (pairs that can form a sole concept). Research indicates that older adults demonstrate an associative deficit whereby they have difficulty forming new associations between items (Naveh-Benjamin, 2000), and this age-related deficit is attenuated when associative memory can be supported by prior knowledge or pre-established associations, such as semantically related word pairs (Badham & Maylor, 2015; Castel, 2005). However, findings from Badham, Estes and Maylor (2012) suggested that word pairs which lack prior associations but can be integrated lead to a reduced associative deficit in the elderly. This thesis first tests the robustness of the integrative advantage as an empirical result; it then attempts to uncover the mechanisms through which the integrative advantage manifests itself. Experiment 1 set out to replicate Badham et al. (2012) and produced similar findings, in that pairs which were integrative but which lacked pre-established associations were better recalled by the elderly than unrelated pairs (an integrative advantage), consequently reducing the associative deficit. Experiments 2, 3a and 3b then examined the roles of item-specific and relational processing and found that encouraging item-specific processing with the integrative pairs reduced their advantage, to the extent that they were not recalled significantly better than the unrelated pairs. Experiment 4 intended to assess whether interactive imagery played a role by seeing if the integrative advantage would be reduced with the encouragements of interactive imagery techniques of the unrelated pairs. Results demonstrated that the advantage was still maintained, which led to the possibility that specificity and perhaps uniqueness were involved. The final experiment investigated the influences of cue overload on integrative and unrelated recall, as well as on recognition. Findings indicated that overloading the integrative cues and hence making the relationship less specific reduced the integrative advantage relative to a condition where the integrative pairs were not overloaded and were unique. In addition, older adults tended to rely more on familiarity than on recollection, in comparison to the younger adults, producing more false alarms to the recombined pairs than their younger counterparts. Taken together, the results from the series of experiments conducted suggest that the role assignment model of relational concepts offers a viable explanation of how the integrative advantage can be explained. The introduction will outline the associative deficit hypothesis (Naveh-Benjamin, 2000) as well as the reduced resources hypothesis of cognitive aging (Craik, 2002), before moving on to the empirical chapters. The latter cover more specific literature relating to each of the factors/specific phenomena of interest.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > School of Arts and Social Sciences Doctoral Theses
Text - Accepted Version
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