Priming of Familiar and Unfamiliar Visual Objects over Delays in Young and Older Adults

Soldan, Anja; Hilton, H. John; Cooper, Lynn A.; Stern, Yaakov

Although priming of familiar stimuli is usually age invariant, little is known about how aging affects priming of preexperimentally unfamiliar stimuli. Therefore, this study investigated the effects of aging and encoding-to-test delays (0 min, 20 min, 90 min, and 1 week) on priming of unfamiliar objects in block-based priming paradigms. During the encoding phase, participants viewed pictures of novel objects (Experiments 1 and 2) or novel and familiar objects (Experiment 3) and judged their left-right orientation. In the test block, priming was measured using the possible-impossible object-decision test (Experiment 1), symmetric-asymmetric object-decision test (Experiment 2), and real-nonreal object-decision test (Experiment 3). In Experiments 1 and 2, young adults showed priming for unfamiliar objects at all delays, whereas older adults whose baseline task performance was similar to that of young adults did not show any priming. Experiment 3 found no effects of age or delay on priming of familiar objects; however, priming of unfamiliar objects was only observed in the young participants. This suggests that when older adults cannot rely on preexisting memory representations, age-related deficits in priming can emerge.


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Psychology and Aging

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February 24, 2018