The effects of age and divided attention on spontaneous recognition
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Studies of recognition typically involve tests in which the participant's memory for a stimulus is directly questioned. There are occasions however, in which memory occurs more spontaneously (e.g., an acquaintance seeming familiar out of context). Spontaneous recognition was investigated in a novel paradigm involving study of pictures and words followed by recognition judgments on stimuli with an old or new word superimposed over an old or new picture. Participants were instructed to make their recognition decision on either the picture or word and to ignore the distracting stimulus. Spontaneous recognition was measured as the influence of old vs. new distracters on target recognition. Across two experiments, older adults and younger adults placed under divided-attention showed a greater tendency to spontaneously recognize old distracters as compared to full-attention younger adults. The occurrence of spontaneous recognition is discussed in relation to ability to constrain retrieval to goal-relevant information.
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