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Aging, imagery, and the bizarreness effect

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Abstract

ABSTRACT This study examined the bizarre imagery effect in young and older adults, under incidental and intentional conditions. Intentionality was manipulated across experiments, with participants receiving an incidental free recall test in Experiment 1 and an intentional test in Experiment 2. This study also examined the relation between working memory resources and the bizarreness effect. In Experiment 1 young and older adults were presented with common and bizarre sentences; they later received an incidental recall test. There were no age differences in sensitivity to the bizarreness effect in Experiment 1 when ANOVAs were used to analyze the data. However, when the bizarreness effect was examined in terms of effect size, there was evidence that younger adults produced larger bizarreness effect sizes than younger adults. Experiment 2 further explored age differences in sensitivity to the bizarreness effect by presenting young and older adults with bizarre and common sentences under intentional learning conditions. Experiment 2 failed to yield age differences as a function of item type (bizarre vs. common). In addition, Experiment 2 failed to yield significant evidence that the bizarreness effect is modulated by working memory resources. The results of this study are most consistent with the distinctiveness account of the bizarreness effect.
... Moreover, self-generated images are more effective than images that are provided by the experimenter (Jamieson and Schimpf 1980). Recall is enhanced by generating bizarre images, particularly when the lists of pairs to be remembered contain a mix of bizarre and common images, rather than just bizarre or common images alone (Anderson and Buyer 1994; Black et al. 2012;Einstein and McDaniel 1987;Mercer 1996). These results show that imagery experience affects memory. ...
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Classical Introspection (CI) was the first formal scientific method to investigate conscious experience, but it fell into disrepute. Descriptive Experience Sampling (DES) has been proposed as a better method to capture naturally-occurring “pristine inner experience”, but the significance of this experience has not been systematically evaluated. This paper examines the functions of pristine inner experience on the basis of two questions that emerged from criticisms of CI: Can pristine inner experience access mental processes and can it affect behavior? Considering the most frequent form of pristine inner experience (inner seeing) from research on visual imagery, three conclusions are drawn: (a) Imagery and inner seeing do not provide direct knowledge about mental processes, (b) imagery and inner seeing do play a role in the determination of behavior, and (c) vividness of visual imagery is associated with behavior, but neither it or pristine inner seeing have causal effects because they have not been experimentally manipulated. This requirement poses challenges, and suggestions are made for nonexperimental research. It is concluded that DES is a better method than CI, but questions are raised about the time and effort that it requires.
... This finding replicates that of Mäntylä and Bäckman (1992), who argued that age differences in the inconsistency effect are minimal on tests that require the retrieval of general information (i.e., the fact that a children's toy was encountered in the office) rather than specific perceptual information (e.g., the fact that the toy was a green truck rather than an orange airplane). This finding also joins other agecomparative studies of inconsistency effects and related phenomena that report similar enhancements of memory in young and older adults by inconsistent or otherwise distinctive information (Badham & Maylor, 2013; Black et al., 2012; Gounden & Nicolas, 2012; Light & Anderson, 1983; Qin et al., 2014; Smith, 2011). More broadly, this result affirms the idea that older adults are as capable as the young of engaging attentional, associative, or distinctiveness processes that lead to the inconsistency effect, at least for general item information. ...
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The general belief that cognitive abilities decline with age has been somewhat qualified in recent years. Many age-related effects previously demonstrated in studies using cross-sectional designs have been shown to be artifacts of sampling or of the different social and economic conditions experienced by different age cohorts (Schaie, 1973). In addition, older people tested in laboratory studies are usually further removed in time from formal education, and have not had so much recent practice at cognitive skills as their younger counterparts. Older experimental subjects may be less motivated to perform well on artificial laboratory tasks, they may have had less formal schooling and may be less healthy. As Avorn (Chapter 17) points out, these factors and others make interpretation of apparent age losses difficult and ought to induce substantial caution before observed deficits are attributed unequivocally to the aging process as such. On the other hand, it does not seem unreasonable to propose that genuine age-related deficits in cognitive functioning do occur. Physical strength, agility, and endurance clearly decline with age, and the various physiological systems of the body (respiratory, circulatory, digestive, excretory) also decline in efficiency as a person grows older (Finch & Hayflick, 1977). It would be rather extraordinary if the nervous system and its associated psychological functions were found to be immune to these otherwise widespread changes.
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