The effect of explicitly directing attention toward item-feature relationships on source memory and aging: an erp study
Dulas, Michael Robert
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Previous evidence has shown that older adults may have specific declines in prefrontal cortex (PFC)-mediated processes supported source memory retrieval, such as strategic retrieval and post-retrieval monitoring. This decline may manifest in the form of attenuated late-frontal ERP effects. Behavioral research suggests that explicitly integrating a target context, or source, with a stimulus during encoding will improve subsequent source memory performance for both younger and older adults. Explicit item-feature binding instructions during encoding may alleviate source memory impairments, in part, by reducing the need for strategic processing during episodic retrieval. The present ERP study investigated whether explicit direction of attention toward item-feature integration may reduce age-related deficits in source memory by alleviating the necessity of frontally-mediated strategic processing at retrieval. Results demonstrated that explicit direction of attention improved source memory accuracy for both young and older adults, but older adults benefited less than the young, indicating additional age-related deficits. ERPs revealed that explicit encoding support attenuated post-retrieval monitoring effects in the young. In the old, explicit encoding instruction resulted in earlier onset of early frontal effects, possibly related to familiarity. Results suggest explicit direction of attention toward item-source integration at encoding may improve source memory by alleviating the need for strategic retrieval, but age-related deficits persist.